International Politics of MENA Blog

SDG Projects

Personal Reflection

The past month I have been working with another Dickinson student and a student at the University of Sharjah in the UAE to identify how different factors within Syria affect the state’s ability to achieve the 12 SDG goals. This was a great opportunity for me to work with someone across time zones with a unique perspective. Together, our group identified that the lack of strong institutions (goal 16) affects the ability of the state to ensure the good health and well-being (goal 3) of its citizens.  We point out the civil war and stalemate as the cause of weak institutions that put the health and well-being of the Syrian population at risk, as exemplified by the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this project, as it allowed me to learn about my partner from the UAE, Noor, and her experiences. I genuinely enjoyed learning about her views on the United States and her impressions of my home country as portrayed in the news. Similarly, I appreciated the insights on her region, sharing my misunderstandings about the MENA region, and highlighting how our homes and cultures are similar and different from each other. 


Qatar is a unique MENA state with a small population and large economic success.  In their podcast, Grace, John, and Ian focused on the significant challenges in Qatar’s ability to achieve SDG 10 and 8. Qatar is struggling to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 10 ( inequality within and among countries) due to laws and treatment of foreign labor. They cited COVID-19 as a period that worsened global inequality due to higher rates of refugees. In Qatar, this can be linked to goal 8 (focus on promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth) which affects workers’ rights. Despite Qatar’s high GDP, ranking in the top five globally, there exists economic inequality among its citizens.  There is a disproportionate amount of wealth held by a small elite. A technically illegal practice, but common in Qatar, is people have to pay for the opportunity to work, sometimes more than they make in a month. Qatar has also faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, who often face restrictions on movement and job changes, risking deportation and resulting in exploitative labor practices. Efforts are being made to address these issues and improve conditions for migrant workers. Women in Qatar also face challenges, needing male permission to marry, pursue higher education, work in government jobs, and travel until the age of 25. This is better than some states in the region, but still not fair. 

Regarding Sustainable Development Goal 8, Qatar has focused on promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth. The country has experienced sustained economic growth but remains heavily reliant on oil. This reliance poses risks, as nearly 80% of the economy is oil-based, making it vulnerable. As the world shifts towards sustainable energy sources, Qatar may face challenges in maintaining its economy. The country is working towards diversifying its economy, particularly focusing on media and sports. 


Darren, Solveig Kristina, and Sara’s podcast focused on Lebanon and the implementation of SDG 1. Sustainable Development Goal 1 aims to end poverty in all its forms is an issue that Lebanon faces significant obstacles in achieving. Lebanon, despite its small size, is grappling with an economic crisis with high unemployment, inflation, and a depreciating currency. The country is often described as a failed state due to its inability to provide for its people, who are suffering from poverty and economic collapse. The government, run by political elites, is widely criticized for prioritizing their own interests over the population’s welfare.

Adding to the already dire economic situation, the influx of refugees, with 1.2 million refugees (mostly from Syria), puts additional strain on already depleted resources. Syrian refugees in Lebanon are often mistreated and underpaid which worsens the conditions in achieving the goal of eradicating poverty. The country’s high public debt limits its ability to provide welfare services, while weak social safety nets and limited access to resources contribute to wealth inequality. Political instability and environmental challenges further complicate efforts to achieve this goal.


International factors can assist in achieving the SDG goals by providing financial support, advancement in technology, and economic partnerships. Financial support can provide the resources necessary to fund SDG projects. International communities helping with technological advancement can help states implement effective and sustainable practices to further their development. Economic partnerships can help a state sustain itself and create job opportunities, with the state, for citizens. However, international factors, like those discussed with Lebanon, can hinder progress. If a state becomes dependent on outside resources it can create the challenge of developing practices that are self-sustaining. Financial interferences tend to come with political interference that could divert recourses from domestic priorities.

            Domestic factors also play a role in accomplishing SDGs. Stable governance, equitable practices, and economic growth can empower states. Strong institutions with transparency and accountability with push a state toward implementing policies effectively and sustainably. Equity allows for diverse opinions y be heard which can lead to sustainability. Lastly, economic growth provides the resources necessary to properly implement new infrastructure that is essential for SDG achievement. However, domestic challenges such as corruption and conflict can hinder progress towards goals Corruption and Conflict were seen in Syria’s hinderance towards SDG goals. Corruption can divert recourses from projects needed for development and access to essential services. Conflict in many ways can digress a state’s progress and completely wipe out essential institutions.

International and domestic factors can either empower or hinder the UN SDG goals. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are difficult to institute in the MENA region due to various factors, but the most prevalent is weak institutions. However, the region seems to be making efforts, in some cases, strides, to improve its performance concerning SDGs. Success is determinate on addressing the challenges to progress and creating opportunities to progress.


  1. Darren Moses

    Hi Morgan, I found your blog very interesting, and informative. I thought your analysis of my teams podcast was very good and was clear. My question to you is when listening about these two different countries, which country to you would be most likely to achieve more progress to SDG’S and why.

    • wheelemo

      Thank you for your comment! I think if I had to choose, Qatar would have a better chance at achieving the SDG goals. Despite being a small country, Qatar has a high GDP per capita and significant resources available for them to start putting projects in place to make progress toward the SDG goals. The easiest areas to start investing in would be education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Lebanon faces more significant challenges due to its political instability and economic crises. Both countries face unique challenges to achieving the SDG goals, but Qatar with its financial success due to oil, is in a stringer position for progress. However, both states can make progress through effective governance and social progress.

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