The MENA states definitely have varying capacities when it comes to how well positioned they are to meet the SDG’s. However, there are many obstacles that these countries face (some the same, some different) which makes it so that they cannot start to allocate the time and resources to trying to meet these goals, despite the impending “doom” of climate change. As was discussed by all the presentations, climate change is a huge problem (globally), but because the MENA states are situated in a particularly hot and water-scarce region, the effects will be exacerbated if these goals aren’t met soon.
One common theme that most (if not all) the countries had was conflict and instability. Notably, countries such as Libya, Yemen and Syria are all experiencing ongoing conflict – and in the case of Libya, that conflict has de-legitimized and taken down government structures that could, perhaps, solve the water and energy crisis that’s happening. The same is true with Syria still suffering from war. Additionally, problems with Islamic State provide lots of instability in the region as well. The destruction of infrastructure makes it very difficult for these countries to achieve any of the SDG goals, not just the water/energy ones, such as poverty reduction, education, etc. In addition to this, weak governance and weak institutional capacity make it so that these countries can’t actually get together infrastructures to pursue the SDG goals, or they can’t, for example, address problems such as human rights in the respective countries. Government corruption is another problem in some areas, versus the issue of legitimacy that can be found in others.
Additionally, many of the MENA countries have economic challenges because they are very dependent on oil exports. Because the global market is likely to fluctuate, high dependence on these particular exports can’t lead to a lot of economic growth (or job stability). This is required of many of the SDGs. Obviously, I’m making a lot of generalizations because the MENA region is quite diverse and so not all countries are struggling to the same capacity at the same things, but it is crucial to note the progress that the MENA country has made as compared to other regions in the world. For example, when it comes to clean energy, Western countries such as the United States have the capacity and infrastructure to explore and take advantage of methods of clean energy. Even though countries in the MENA region are very well situated to take advantage of solar power, for example, they can’t actually do this if they don’t have the infrastructure/money/resources/organizational capacity. Meanwhile, the United States can (and should) take advantage of the fact that we can achieve clean energy in many different ways because we have the resources to do so.
The same can be said for the other SDG’s as well – that some countries are just better situated to address these goals than others. The United States has blatant human rights abuses in many areas (police brutality, anti-abortion laws, etc.), however, we could redress these problems to some capacity (and many groups try to make efforts to do so). In a country like Syria which is in the middle of a civil war where the end isn’t necessarily in sight, of course human rights abuses are happening and they are not really in a position to be able to solve them. A lot of it also depends on the regimes in power (as, I guess, is true for the United States as well). The bottom line is many of the countries in the MENA region need some kind of international aid to start to address the goals. But, there are many institutional problems that make it so that even if they do have the money, how will they put it to good use?