Barriers to Sustainable Development in MENA

The UN Sustainable Development Goals seek to establish guidelines and a series of goals for States to achieve in order to push themselves to be better for their citizens, as well as for the environment of the planet as a whole. Given the nature of these goals and the upfront costs to achieving some of them, it should come as no surprise that progress across the board has been slow, if present at all. Within the Middle East and North Africa, this remains the truth, with many of the goals still seeming incredibly far off from where experts would like to see them by 2030. One goal the nations this region have, and will continue to have an issue with achieving in SDG 7, calling for access to clean and renewable energy for all people. Being a region with many countries whose economies are defined by the sale of oil and natural gas, most citizens in the region have access to affordable energy, particularly in the cities, but almost none of this comes from clean energy sources.

Some richer states within the region, particularly the Gulf States, may have a much easier time with achieving some of these goals given the massive wealth which has been generated from the sale of oil and natural gas. Many of these states, such as the UAE, have begun to seek ways to diversify their economies in preparation for the eventual end of oil reliance by much of the world. Most of the sustainable development goals, with the exception of maybe 16, can be attained by the shear amount of capital possessed by these states. Since many of the neighbors of the wealthier Gulf States do not possess the ability to strive towards these goals on their own, it is possible that we may say projects reaching across countries in order to help one another develop. While the wealthier countries could just leave their neighbors behind, it makes much more sense to seek the stabilization of ones neighbors, rather than allowing them to continue on self destructive actions. Alternatively, we could see a MENA growing more and more divided as one section advances rapidly, with the other states growing more desperate, but only time will tell how the politics of the region will change in the face of the SDGs.

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