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很难看中东,乐观地考虑未来。对该地区中心对危机和崩溃的大部分分析。两者都有很多,由战争和民事冲突,贫困,极端主义等等。鉴于人类收费,重点关注所有这一切都是自然的 - 有必要开发解决深深扎根问题的解决方案。

At the same time, such a singular focus holds risks. Envisioning what a better future could look like is also necessary. That is difficult if policymakers, scholars and others become inured to the current chaos and project forward only today’s bleak assumptions about the future.

A related risk is becoming blinded to “weak signals” — early indicators of what could become features of potential alternative futures. Weak signals are developments that are emerging outside the dominant trends of today. In the Middle East, probably the most dominant norm is the inability of governments to provide security and prosperity for their citizens. The COVID-19 pandemic is making this markedly worse. It is not just the obvious failed states — as Steven Cook recently observed, “sometimes state failure is a more chronic condition。”

But there is evidence of activities at the local level to create what is missing. Could these be signals of a future different than the one it is so easy to expect for the region?

Grow Your Own

Food security is one area where people-driven initiatives are on the rise. Challenges of water scarcity and limited arable land are exacerbated by government mismanagement and underinvestment in agricultural sectors. Over the last decade, home farming and agriculture-oriented startups have surfaced. Tulua is a Jordanian startup in aquaponics, an agricultural technique to grow plants with nutrient-filled water in a soilless medium. This innovative method is enabling individuals in local communities to grow their own crops year-round and generate income from it. In the UAE, the “My Arabian Almanakh“城市园艺计划于2017年出版了一个指南,促进中东城市人群的自给自足和食品可持续性。

Over the last few months, as the pandemic has deepened food insecurity, more such initiatives have come into view across the region. In Lebanon, which imports 85% of its food, home farming initiatives are responding to growing food shortages and steep price rises for staple foods. TheGhaletna项目(“我们的作物”中的阿拉伯语)正在为当地家庭提供幼苗和农业培训,以改善贝鲁特北部Keserwan的自给自足。5月,奥斯卡提名黎巴嫩电影制片人Nadine Labaki推出了“Plant of my Heart” campaign, bringing multiple sustainable agriculture initiatives together to help citizens grow seeds and vegetables in their homes or on their lands.

努力确保他们在大流行和超越中的生计,各地区的个别家庭正在加速回国农业,希望未来当地市场上的作物盈余。回应Covid-19造成的市场中断,主动性“来自村庄“由一群黎巴嫩学生领导,建立一个在线平台,以支持努力努力出售其产品的地方农民和家庭。和更多的城市地区也在变成农业点。在大马士革,Abdulrahman Al-Masria,一位当地企业家,turned his building rooftop into a hydroponic farm。通过节省空间,水和农药,这一举措是由于内战原因已经严重的粮食短缺的成本效益。


Will such initiatives address food insecurity for the nearly1.1亿营养不良的人across the Middle East? Of course not. But the data points to the emergence of a future trend that could make some difference in the region and for its people. We shouldn’t overstate what’s happening — weak signals are called that for a reason. They’re early in their progress and even earlier in their impact. They take time to materialize and become widespread. They may not be very reliable, as many things can influence the course they take and whether they spark major change.

But these micro-level, people-driven food and agriculture initiatives could foreshadow a rising, broader self-reliance in a region where government structures have rendered themselves increasingly irrelevant.

Seeds of Something Bigger?

在Covid-19面前,中东正在看到其他类型的创新基层举措的兴起。其中一些直接针对个人和社区水平的有效和有效的健康反应,以对病毒的传播和影响。在利比亚,年轻科技开发商推出了“” app, which provides reliable and updated information on COVID-19 infection rates in the country. Other projects focus on providing medical technology. In response to media reports on equipment shortages, three Lebanese engineering students launched a project to produce preliminary prototypes of 3D-printed ventilators. The startup,FabLabin Benghazi, Libya, has developed disinfection tunnels for moving infected patients across hospital departments.

其他community-driven initiatives have mobilized to provide for people. Earlier this year a network of health and social professionals, theIranian Scientific Association of Social Work, set up a hotline and website providing information on protection measures against the virus. In addition, Iranian women’s associations and local families have taken up the responsibility to quarantine infected populations in improvised rehabilitation centers. In Libya, new charity associations have emerged, like theSidi Abdelghani Mosque Charity in Souq al-Jumaa, offering hygienic training in public schools. In the country’s rural areas, grassroots networks have launched awareness campaigns on social media and posters. In Lebanon, families from the civil initiative “Baytna Baytak” came together to provide housing for health workers next to hospitals.


Creating Futures

In the southern region of Daraa in Syria, local campaigns to raise public awareness about the coronavirus and provide financial support and protective equipment have quickly been turned into an扩大劳动力,以履行政府职责。州结构资本提高这些努力应对其遗失的合法性损失并损害并对叙利亚和该地区其他地方的更多独立社会组织和公民赋权的前景。

Another positive or enabling force to look for is increased and effective use of the internet by micro-initiatives to grow in scope and scale. Social media is already playing a key role in promoting resilience in the face of the coronavirus crisis. For example, it is providing a埃及牲畜交易员的平台出售他们的牛尽管政府运动限制所施加的制约因素。在更大的水平上,amel生态系统, a civil society network, is leveraging social media and webinars to disseminate accurate information on the virus and help civil organizations promote hygienic habits in Middle East communities.

A Holistic View Forward

It is important to project forward not only the “inescapable” consequences of today’s dominant conditions. We should also consider the potential acceleration of early signals of futures different from the one we expect. For the Middle East, that should include paying heed to examples of resilience at the micro level, independent of the sources of today’s grim narrative. Leaders in and outside the region need to see the nascent foundations for positive change exist before they can consider how to build on them for a different future.

这件作品首次发表by the Middle East Institute.

Steven Kenney

Founder and Principal of Foresight LLC

Steven Kenney是创始人和校长Foresight LLC, a strategy consultancy, advising public and private sector executives on how to create their organizations’ future. He is also anon-resident fellowat Middle East Institute and leads MEI’s Strategic Foresight Initiative program.

    Chloé Bernadaux

    Researcher in International Affairs and Comparative Politics

    Chloé Bernadaux在国际Secu收到她的硕士学位rity from Sciences Po Paris. She previously conducted research on gender dynamics in the Middle East at the Lebanese-American University in Beirut. She is also acontributorto several platforms, among them the International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies, Encyclopedia Geopolitica, and L’Orient Le Jour. The views presented in this piece are their own.

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