Environmental Activism in the Middle East: Prospects and Challenges

“Environmental activism has intensified across the Middle East and North Africa over the past few decades, focusing primarily on environmental issues that affect public health, livelihoods, and essential services. While intrusive security states limit information and stifle civil society, expanding educational opportunities, growing cities, and new means of communication have enabled environmental activism. This includes small-scale, informal, and localized activism to appropriate and demand access to natural resources and environmental services; the spread of environmental nongovernmental organizations (ENGO’s); and the coordinated popular resistance campaign (hamla) that typically includes direct action, media outreach, and lobbying. State elites and official media often portray environmental mobilization as a threat to national security and state integrity, but sometimes tolerate it as an informal enforcement mechanism to pressure polluting firms and nonresponsive officials. As elsewhere, state and corporate actors also increasingly deploy their own discourses and interventions around environmental issues, generally focused on technocratic solutions rather than questions of political economy and environmental justice…”

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