Environmental Law in the Middle East and North Africa

Authors: Zainab Lokhandwala


This paper analyses the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) region against the backdrop of two themes: climate action and human rights. In the climate context, the renewable energy sector will certainly suffer in the immediate aftermath of Covid 19. At the same time, globally, renewables have shown more resilience than fossil fuels during this crisis, which may lead to increased investments in the long-term. Nevertheless, pre-Covid commitments and estimated future gains (if any) in renewables were not enough for combating climate change. The trajectory of regional climate action was slow and inadequate to begin with, and it is likely to suffer even further, owing to economic slowdown and relief measures that will pull resources away from climate action. In the human rights context, the Covid 19 crisis has led to increased authoritarianism and has added a new layer to existing human rights and humanitarian issues. As political stability is a prerequisite for the growth and execution of environmental law, public discontent against governments will only delay and detract the environmental agenda. Overall, these two legs of analysis show how the pandemic has led to a retraction of environmental law. Coming out of the crisis, there are many lessons to be learnt. Interdisciplinary approaches that draw a human-ecological-health nexus may offer solutions in the Middle East as in the world. The Berlin Principles 2019 are a positive step in this direction which could pave the way for more ecosystemic and holistic environmental legal development.

Keywords: Middle East and North Africa - Covid-19 - Climate Action - Human Rights