Last week, the Iraqi NGO Ozon organised with PSI a get-together in the context of its Basra Forum for Climate, Environment and Security (BF). The meeting took place in Basra, Iraq and brought together approximately 40 participants from diverse backgrounds, including academics, policy-makers, civil society, environmental activists, and representatives from governmental institutions. It served as a platform to exchange and gather on-the-ground insights from the Basra region.
The dialogue concentrated on the multifaceted nature of climate change challenges in the South of Iraq and its far-reaching repercussions on security. This included highlighting the escalating salinization, diminishing arable land, reduction of water flows, and the increasing frequency of heatwaves and sandstorms—all of which pose significant threats to public health. Also, an initiative to augment vegetation was presented as a proactive response to the rising occurrence of sandstorms in the region.
Participants’ expertise and contributions enriched the dialogue by emphasizing the unique challenges inherent in addressing climate change within an oil-producing region. Key obstacles identified included the lack of comprehensive data and effective policies to mitigate the impact of climate change. Issues such as construction in areas of arable land and poor policy implementation, such as the absence of effective measures to prevent deforestation in restricted areas, were underscored as critical challenges facing the South of Iraq.
The event's impact reverberated in the local Iraqi media, which disseminated the insights garnered during the meeting through their publications. This media coverage showcased the depth of interest in the topic within the South of Iraq. Click here to see the news item of Al-Marbid and a Facebook post by منظمة أوزون للخدمات العامة والتنمية المستدامة
The Basra Forum for Climate, Environment and Security convened at a critical juncture when Iraq is grappling with the harsh consequences of climate change. Extreme temperatures, prolonged droughts, more frequent sand and dust storms and floods cause complex water crises with reduced water availability and quality in a context of increasing demand. The drying up of the marshlands in southern Iraq poses a threat to both local biodiversity and the well-being and livelihoods. More than 90% of the displaced population in the southern governorates of Iraq attribute their displacement to water scarcity. Climate change impacts undermine development and aggravate existing fragilities and vulnerabilities, increasing the risk of conflict.
Since 2018, PSI has been dedicated to researching the implications of desertification, water scarcity, and overall environmental degradation on Iraq's stability. Since 2020, PSI has been catalytic in the establishment of a network called the Basra Forum for Climate, Environment and Security (BF). The BF seeks to facilitate dialogue and collaboration among Iraqi civil society, governmental institutions, non-governmental organizations, academia, and other actors involved in climate change, environmental degradation, and security. PSI has played a crucial role in promoting the forum within international diplomatic circles and among decision-makers at local and regional levels.
The BF's primary objective is to raise awareness and spur action on climate change impacts. The forum addresses pressing issues such as water and food insecurity, which significantly impact livelihoods and security in the region. The discussions fostered by the BF particularly address phenomena affecting southern Iraq, including water shortages and pollution, saltwater intrusion, and desertification.
Interested in previous Basra Forums and publications on Iraq?
Find here a full recording of the first-ever climate security dialogue held in Basra in 2021. This event addressed climate change impacts on the stability of southern Iraq, with special attention to the protests and clashes following the 2018 water crisis.
Find here a PSI report ‘’Water crises – water opportunities: promoting water cooperation in the Middle East’’ by Tobias von Lossow and Annabelle Houdret who offer five action areas for thinking beyond traditional approaches and promoting opportunities for water cooperation in the Middle East.
Or these joint policy briefs ‘’Water governance in Iraq: Enabling a gamechanger’’ and ‘’Action Needed: Three Priorities for Iraq’s Water Sector’’ by Clingendael Institute and the Water, Peace, Security Initiative.