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? 

5 Responses to “Intermestics and the SDGs”

  1.   gestionale per parrucchieri said:

    The article discusses how international and domestic factors influence the success of countries, particularly in the Global South, in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It uses the example of Kuwait and its challenges with water scarcity to illustrate how natural resources can both hinder and help a nation’s progress. The discussion extends to regional cooperation, such as the GCC’s efforts to establish a regional water grid, and explores whether such initiatives can effectively address shared challenges. The text invites readers to consider the complexities of regional and international dynamics in sustainability efforts.

  2.   Evan Connery said:

    Hi Annie, I thought it was very interesting how you talked about how challenges with natural resources can lead to greater cooperation or conflict. I think a realist would state that these concerns are key to state survival and these challenges apply across borders. This would force cooperation to fix these problems. In contrast, a constructivist would say concerns over regime security, ethnic conflicts, and tensions among individual leaders would prevent cooperation. Finally, a liberal would emphasize the need for the role of more organizations to promote partnerships in the region. Which of these theories do you think is most present?

  3.   Annie Elliott said:

    Hi Evan, thanks for your reply. It an interesting idea that state survival would require cooperation. How do you think power plays into the realist analysis of this? When it comes to regional cooperation, I am inclined to think the liberal perspective is most convincing. However, because the region has relatively low interdependence and cooperation, I am not yet sure how liberalism would actually play out is trying to encourage SDG achievement.

  4.   Noor Al Ain Imran said:

    Hi Annie,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog because you raise some really interesting points – especially regarding whether cooperation with regional and intergovernmental organisations are how states are inclined to act.
    In another class, Conflict Resolution, we discussed regional and sub-regional organisations in the MENA and how ineffective they are at resolving conflict. Yet during our discourse an interesting argument was brought up that I think really applies well here. For almost the entirity of the history of the MENA, the region has been under some greater imperial or colonial power – whether that be the Persians, the Ottomans, the Byzantines, etc. – vying for posession of the region. These conflict dynamics are present even today, and are largely a threat to not only peace within the MENA but also the ability to maintain their sovereignty. Particularly under the Ottoman Empire, even after the Tanzimat reforms were enacted, the Arab provinces were autonomous and so they never were expected to cooperate with one another past things like trade. I find it completely reasonable to question whether a regional or international organisation is enough to incite cooperation from relatively very new states in a region that has been autonomous and largely self-reliant for centuries. Just some food for thought!

  5.   Rashid Basioni said:

    Thank you, Annie, for sharing your thoughts on this blog post. I admire the way you presented your ideas and the curiosity you showed about the problems of water scarcity and inequality in the region.
    You also raised an interesting question about whether inequalities caused by oil should be considered a domestic or international issue. It’s both because organizations like OPEC and countries that purchase oil significantly affect the cost of oil and associated wealth. At the same time, internal usage of those funds also impacts the country’s economic and social development. Therefore, it’s essential to address this issue from domestic and international perspectives.
    On a final note, how do you think countries in politically sensitive areas, such as the Middle East, can build trust and collaborate effectively to achieve the SDGs, especially with countries that share a tense history and rich resources, such as Iraq and Kuwait?

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