Intermestics and the SDGs

April 18, 2024

Prompt: How does the interaction of international and domestic factors empower or hinder some states of the Global South in making progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals compared to other states?”

There are multiple ways that international domestic factors affect state success in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However what helps or hinders a country’s success is highly dependent on regional or even country specific factors. Consider one factor that relates to both domestic and international perspectives: natural resources, and the case of Kuwait. 

The podcast on Kuwait analyzed the country’s progress towards achieving the SDGs in the context of the water scarcity that exists within the region. Water is crucial to development, however in Kuwait like the rest of the MENA, freshwater scarcity complicates the process of achieving SDGs. Water, and similar resources are unique in discussions of development because they are used in so many parts of life such as industry, food growth, or health. The creators of the podcast look at the issues of water scarcity from a sub-regional perspective, analyzing how the GCC states use more water than other regional states. As a listener, this is when I began to consider the effect of other natural resources in Kuwait’s efforts to achieve the goal, and I considered the use of oil rents to fund desalination plants. Indeed, it seems that in this scenario, natural resources are both hindering and helping Kuwait in achieving the SDGs. 

As I continued to listen to the podcast, I learned more about an issue that affects other states regionally. Specifically, I learned about how Kuwait relies on oil, and oil income in order to provide water for its citizens. In addition, I learned about the GCC’s efforts to create a regional water grid. I think this is a particularly good example of ways in which regionally, countries might work together to help achieve goals. This seems especially relevant to natural resources and water in particular because there are likely shared groundwater reserves or rivers that impact the way states consider water usage internationally. I’m inclined to believe that while the problem seems to be domestic or regional, intergovernmental organizations and regional cooperation might be part of the solution. However some might argue that intergovernmental organizations, and increased cooperation and interdependence are not how states are inclined to act. Do you think there is potential success in a regional water grid? What might some challenges be to implementing a successful water grid?

Consider now the case of natural resources in Iraq. The podcast on Iraq considered the way natural resources, in this case oil, drives inequality and hinders the country’s ability to achieve SDG 10. I wonder if one could consider inequalities caused by oil to be a domestic issue or an international issue or both? I ask this because I wonder if the cost of oil and associated wealth might be in part due to organizations like OPEC and countries that purchase such oil, or internal usage of those funds. Is the problem one of oil rents itself? Or is it a problem of a “culture of corruption”? I think the issue of usage of oil rents and inequality is an issue prominent in the region, however the issue seems to play out in different ways depending on the state and regime goals. 

Looking towards the future, international factors such as increasing desire for clean renewable energy might decrease reliance on hydrocarbons. This would affect both Iraq and Kuwait considerably and hydrocarbons both help and hinder the states ability to achieve the SDGs in differing ways. 

When I compare both the states to Morocco, I think about the importance of international non-governmental organizations like Transparency International in collecting and spreading data on country progress. It has for me offered a unique way to compare the country’s success and failure in things like corruption. However, as we mentioned, and another student in our zoom mentioned, sometimes international standards and metrics are not robust enough to enact any real change. What do you think? 

My Water Diary

April 1, 2024

It seems important to note first, that while my water usage is lower than the average American’s (1,013 g/d to 1,802 g/d), a lot of this I attribute to Dickinson college making such lower water usage accessible ( For example, my shower at Dickinson has efficient faucets, but the house I grew up in does not. Additionally, Dickinson makes sustainability, like recycling and getting used clothing very easy. Therefore, one must take into consideration the ways the lifestyle of a Dickinson college student differs from the lifestyle of the average American. 

 The average American water footprint is 7,800 litre/day or 2060.542 gallons/day. My sub-region of study is North Africa so I looked up Tunisia to compare. The average Tunisian uses 6 100 litre/day or 1,611.44 (gallons/day. Socially, I think it is likely Tunisians consider water scarcityin their activities and everyday lives, in a way that people in the US don’t.


 Economically, water scarcity is going to make water demanding goods expensive, and is going to limit who is able to access goods. For example, foods that require a lot of water to grow are going to be expensive and inaccessible locally, and might be cheaper to import. Countries without oil wealth, like North African countries, might find such imports out of reach. Perhaps it would also mean it will take more water to consume things. 

This means that Tunisia has to import virtual water from countries, likely from outside the region given how scarce the surrounding region is as well. Internationally, Tunisia must maintain good trading relations with the countries they get this water from. Water scarcity also means the Tunisian government must have the funds to import virtual water. These patterns present challenges to sustainable development. 

I am writing my final research paper on food security in Tunisia, and part of the problem is the arid climate makes sustainable food security difficult. Reliance on imported food, which is virtual water, makes the country vulnerable, presenting foundational challenges to human life. Patterns of reliance on external countries for virtual water pose challenges for countries because it makes them vulnerable to price shocks, issues with transportation, etc. Are there any other ways you can think of water scarcity posing challenges for MENA countries? Did you notice different challenges for different sub-regions?