Last year, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) celebrated 150 years of their mission to “protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence.” Though this mission hasn’t changed in the past century-and-a-half, the nature of conflict and crisis response has. [Video Below]
During the Gezi Park protests last month in Istanbul, Turks and Kurds dismissed historical mistrust and banded together against Prime Minister Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism. Some have suggested the newly unifying cause has strengthened momentum for a long-standing solution to Kurdish autonomy and rights in Turkey. Still it may be water that the fate of Kurdish ambitions is most tied to, rather than officials in Ankara or protestors in Istanbul.
Emmanuel Karagiannis: Mediterranean Oil and Gas Discoveries Could Change Regional Alignments, Global Energy Equation›
“The discovery of gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean comes at a time when world demand for energy is growing rapidly and many are questioning the reliability of supplies from North Africa and the Middle East,” said Emmanuel Karagiannis, assistant professor of Russian and post-Soviet politics at the University of Macedonia, in an interview at the Wilson Center.The newly-discovered fields contain about 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas reserves, 25 trillion of which are located within Israeli territorial waters. “That’s twice the reserves Libya has,” according to Karagiannis. The remaining fields have been claimed by the Republic of Cyprus, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Syria, and Lebanon.
Europe currently depends on Russia for most of its gas supplies, so the new fields could provide an “important alternative source for European economies,” said Karagiannis.
The discovery also has the potential to increase stability in the region by serving as an incentive for nations to work together. “For example, Israel and Cyprus have come closer to each other in many respects, including military cooperation,” Karagiannis said. Greece and Israel have also strengthened their relationship, in part due to the historical relationship between Cyprus and Greece but also because the latter could serve as an energy hub to transport gas throughout Europe, he said. “In effect Israel, Greece, and Cyprus could form a new axis of stability in the region.”
“Turkey can also play a significant part in the business of transporting energy resources to Europe,” Karagiannis said, but Syria and Lebanon, the two other countries that lie adjacent to the newly discovered gas reserves, are less likely to benefit in the near future from the find, given their current political circumstances. “It’s very difficult to imagine their participation in the regional energy projects,” he said. Lebanon has tried and failed to sell offshore exploratory licenses twice due to its lack of a state petroleum administration, while the current uprising against President Bashar al-Assad is preventing any progress in Syria.
In part as a result of these political challenges, the gas fields also have the potential to generate conflict in the region. There will be a divide between “haves and have-nots,” explained Karagiannis. According to a report by the Institute for National Strategic Studies, “piping Israeli gas to the RoC [Republic of Cyprus] and then onto Turkey, which could be the gateway to the European market, is unlikely due to current tensions between Ankara, the RoC, and Tel Aviv.” Since the discovery of the fields, “Turkey has already issued military threats against Cyprus in order to stop the gas exploration process that is currently taking place in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone,” Karagiannis said. The Israeli government issued a response to the threat, stating that they are committed to protecting energy infrastructure in the region.
The first new natural gas field in the region is expected to begin full-scale production this year, with two additional fields coming on-line over the next six years.
Keenan Dillard is a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point and an intern with the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program.
Sources: Institute for National Strategic Studies, Noble Energy Inc., Turkish Weekly, U.S. Geological Survey.
›Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.” The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), established by the UN to monitor progress towards this goal, has twice concluded (in 2008 and 2010) that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are in good shape to meet this target. However, a new article in Development and Change, “The Politics of Assessment: Water and Sanitation MDGs in the Middle East,” by Neda Zawahri, Jeannie Sowers, and Erika Weinthal, argues that the JMP’s “reliance on classifying ‘improved’ and ‘unimproved’ water and sanitation infrastructure, through infrequent household surveys, has produced misleading assessments that fail to capture the extensive water quality and sanitation problems plaguing the MENA.”
The authors compared the findings of the JMP with a variety of data sources – participatory assessments, reports from other UN agencies, donor projects, domestic ministries and agencies, and academic research – and found major contradictions between the progress reported by the JMP and the situation on the ground. In one example, the authors write that “while the JMP considers piped household water as an improvement in water coverage, it fails to differentiate between ‘full’ coverage and ‘partial’ coverage, that is, household water supplies available only a few hours a week.” And the authors point out that according to UN-Habitat, “the availability of piped water does not necessarily translate into safe drinking water, as water may become contaminated before it reaches the tap.”
As a result of the weakness of the indicators used by the JMP, household surveys conducted by the JMP in the MENA region “[do] not adequately capture the quality of drinking water,” the authors write, and efforts to address this inadequacy through more comprehensive testing of municipal water samples were deemed “too complex to be routinely employed through the world” and “prohibitively expensive.”
“International organizations and national leaderships in the MENA lack substantial incentives to adopt more accurate assessments for safe water and sanitation,” Zawahri et al. conclude. The need to generate comparable data across time and space has trumped the importance of “gauging access, quality, and affordability of water and sanitation.”
›October 13, 2011 // By Richard CincottaFrom a demographic perspective, the global distribution of intrastate conflicts is not what it used to be. During the latter half of the 20th century, the states with the most youthful populations (median age of 25.0 years or less) were consistently the most at risk of being engaged in civil or ethnoreligious conflict (circumstances where either ethnic or religious factors, or both, come into play). However, this tight relationship has loosened over the past decade, with the propensity of conflict rising significantly for countries with intermediate age structures (median age 25.1 to 35.0 years) and actually dipping for those with youthful age structures (see Figure 1 below).
Why has this relationship changed? At least two underlying trends help explain the shift:
- Over the last two decades, the deployment of peace support operations to countries with youthful populations has surged (described in a previous post on New Security Beat); and
- Ethnoreligious conflicts have gradually, though noticeably, increased among a group of states with a median age greater than 25.0 years (including Thailand, Turkey, and Russia).
Youthful Minorities, Older Majorities
National level comparisons of total fertility rates tend to communicate the false impression of a world with demographically homogeneous states. When available, sub-national data present a very different picture.
minority-majority fertility gaps have become increasingly apparent since the 1960s, as modern contraception has been disseminated through public programs and sold to clients who can afford it through private sources. Most recently, Neil Howe and Richard Jackson have warned that hopes for a “demographic peace” – a world of states with mature age structures, each with a depressed risk of intrastate conflict – are likely to be thwarted by uneven fertility declines among ethnoreligious groups in youthful states, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
In his demographic studies of Lebanon during the late 1970s, Joseph Chamie documented a steady decline in marital fertility among Lebanese Christians (of all types), as well as the emigration of members of this community to the West. Next, Sunnis and Druze entered their fertility transitions, leaving behind Lebanese Shiites – the most rural, the most religious, and the most economically and politically marginalized of Lebanon’s four major ethnoreligious communities. Despite recent fertility declines, the age structure of Lebanese Shiites remains the most youthful and fastest growing of Lebanon’s major ethnoreligious communities. To proponents of the youth-bulge hypothesis this data would suggest that, among Lebanon’s communities, young Shiite men should be the easiest to mobilize and the least risk averse – and for those proponents, it helps explain the rise and durability of Hezbollah.
A similar underlying demographic gap marked Sri Lanka’s civil war (1983 to 2009). As early as the mid-1960s, fertility declines had been noted among the majority Sinhalese population. However, the fertility transition in the rural Tamil community, situated in the northeast corner of the island, lagged behind by nearly two decades. In the early 1980s when Tamil demands for political reforms were rebuffed by Sri Lanka’s government, thousands of young Tamils were mobilized by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, creating an insurgent organization that was able to wage a guerilla war for nearly three decades. According to the UN, the conflict took the lives of more than 80,000 Sri Lankans, nearly 1,200 Indian peacekeepers, and ultimately prompted thousands of Sri Lankan Tamilians to emigrate.
This demographic pattern characterizes other intrastate conflicts. Currently, similar configurations typify strife involving ethnic Kurds in Turkey, the Pattani Muslims in southern Thailand, Palestinians in the full extent of Israeli-controlled territory, and the Baluch in eastern Iran. Like the conflicts in the Indonesian states of Aceh (ending in 2004) and East Nusa Tengarra (from 1999 to 2003), some have terminated in political settlement. Yet in youthful, economically depressed, politically embittered geographic corners of otherwise developed states, conflicts involving a youthful minority can grind on for decades, extracting debilitating political, social, and economic costs – like the Chechen conflict in southern Russia, which continues today, and Northern Ireland’s “Troubles,” which dragged on from 1969 to 1998.
The Demographic Security Dilemma
Most social scientists are likely to explain a minority-majority gap in fertility and median age as the product of history and culture, an artifact of income differences, and/or the result of discriminatory policies or inadequate protections on the part of the state. While political demographers recognize these as contributing factors, they also identify the political volatility and rapid population growth of youthful minorities as central features in a dynamic relationship known as the demographic security dilemma.
Christian Leuprecht, arises when a state permits or promotes the political, economic, and social marginalization of an ethnoreligious minority. The recent historical record suggests that under conditions where modern education, economic opportunity, and quality services are denied, poorly developed, or poorly accessed, ethnoreligious minorities are likely to retain traditional gender relationships and local institutions that support high levels of marital fertility. As a result, whereas the more privileged, educated, and generally urbanized majority will ultimately experience the transition to lower fertility, high-fertility minorities confined to neglected rural regions and low-income urban neighborhoods lag, typically retaining their youthful age structure longer and sustaining a higher population growth rate than the majority.
An absence of proactive policies to bring youthful communities into the economic, social, and political mainstream tends to strengthen radical and traditionalist religious political organizations, which often take advantage by filling in gaps in local services and governance. Typically, they restrict girls’ access to education, thwart women’s attempts to gain social and economic autonomy, restrict speech, and campaign against modernization and secularization.
And thus the dilemma: The more states marginalize a dissonant minority, turn a blind eye to a minority’s exclusion from mainstream social and economic participation, or allow minorities to exclude themselves, the more those youthful minorities tend to grow as a proportion of the state’s population. (Notably, minority-state tensions do not naturally emerge out of the opposite circumstance: when the majority is youthful and the ethnoreligious minority is not – see Figure 2.)
Looking Beyond the Demographic Arc of Instability
For political demographers, it may be time for a broader definition of demographically at-risk states, a definition that takes sub-national groups into account. This new description acknowledges that the youthful age structure of a politically organized minority is a significant risk factor for intrastate conflict. Whereas for now and the near future, the vast majority of intrastate conflicts will emerge within the so-called demographic arc of instability – a geographic swath of states having a population with a median age less than or equal to 25 years – the acknowledgment of this emerging trend suggests that analysts should look beyond country-level demographic data for telltale signs of minorities that sustain a youthful age structure.
That’s easier said than done. Because of restrictions associated with ethnic and religious data collection and the political sensitivities surrounding conclusions drawn from these data, relatively few countries currently provide public access to data that are disaggregated by ethnic and religious affiliation. For now, analysts attempting to estimate qualities of a minority’s age structure must approximate from related measures, such as estimates of minority birth and death rates, fertility rates, and school attendance. Rather than being accessible from a central source, these are published in scattered government reports and in the international demographic and public health literature.
In the future, progress in discerning the political implications of minority demographic trends could hinge on the ability of researchers to gain access to ethnoreligious demographic data. For this to happen, many governments will have to overcome deep-seated political inhibitions and overturn laws prohibiting identification by ethnicity or religion, while data collectors will need to promote conditions that encourage survey participants to self-identify their ethnic and religious affiliations anonymously and without fear.
Despite persistent high fertility across sub-Saharan Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, UN demographers foresee a world in the not-too-distant future that will be dominated by states with populations near or below replacement-level fertility. In that future, foreign affairs analysts can expect the ethnoreligious composition of many states to be unstable and extremely sensitive to minority-majority fertility gaps. Yet if political scientists fail to acknowledge these and other demonstrable relationships between demographic trends and political tensions and transformations, analysts could once again be caught by surprise – much like they were during the onset of the Arab Spring.
Richard Cincotta is a consultant on political demography for the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program and demographer-in-residence at The Stimson Center.
Sources: Chamie (1981), Cincotta, Engelman, and Anastasion (2003), Fernando (1983), Fuller (1984), Jackson and Howe (2011), Leuprecht (2010), Puvanarajan and Indralal De Silva (2001), UN.
Image Credits: “Juventud 22,” courtesy of flickr user antitezo; charts arranged by Richard Cincotta, data from PRIO and the UN Population Division.
›Middle East at the Crossroads” series takes a look at the most challenging population, health, environment, and security issues facing the region.
It doesn’t take much to get Israel and Lebanon at each other’s throats these days, given that the two neighbors engaged in a significant war in 2006. That conflict remains an open wound, as the two sides remain technically at war to this day. Periodic cross-border flare-ups — most recently over the cutting down of a tree on their shared border, which left one Israeli and three Lebanese dead — show neither side has to be pushed far to trigger an outbreak of violence.
In recent months, a new wrinkle — and a new source of potential conflict — has been added to bilateral relations, with the discovery of significant natural gas reserves under Mediterranean waters off both countries’ coasts. The find has sparked a scramble from Beirut and Jerusalem, as the two energy-hungry nations look to capitalize on the deposits and exploit the reserves. For both Israel and Lebanon, developing the natural gas potential of this swath of the eastern Mediterranean could augment energy supply, and even pave the way to a greener energy future. But fears of a military stand-off over the resource lurk just around the corner, given that much of the extractable natural gas in question lies under contested waters.
Maritime Border Undefined
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the recoverable amount of natural gas reserves, which lie in an area known as the Levant Basin Province, to be 122 trillion cubic feet (tcf). While not a huge find by global standards — the world consumed 110 tcf of natural gas in 2008 — the discovery is a potential game-changer in terms of the energy security of both Israel and Lebanon. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2007 Israel produced only four percent of the total energy it consumed, while Lebanon generated just three percent of the energy it used. With the natural gas bonanza, not only would the two countries become more self-sufficient in meeting their own domestic energy needs, there is also speculation they could even one day become natural gas exporters.
The question that is only now beginning to be addressed is who controls what. Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, every coastal country has an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that extends 200 miles off its shoreline. But in certain bodies of water, EEZ territorial claims have overlapped, with one of those areas disputed being the Mediterranean.
At this point, much of the known reserves appear to lie firmly in Israeli territorial waters, one of the reasons Israel has outpaced Lebanon in moving to drill for the resource. But Lebanese leaders — long concerned about the prospect of Israel infringing upon Lebanon’s sovereignty — have sounded the alarm, claiming that a substantial amount of the reserves may lie in Lebanese territorial waters. Further complicating matters is the fact that the two countries’ maritime border has remained unfixed since the end of the 2006 war, meaning that each country could have a legitimate claim that the other is trespassing on its sovereign territory in pursuit of the gas.
Hinting at a Physical Confrontation
The stakes appear high. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Ali Hamdan, an assistant to Lebanese Parliament speaker Nabih Berri, issued a strong-worded statement on potential Israeli drilling in disputed waters. “Lebanon fears that Israel, based on its history of occupying our lands and stealing our water, will drill in Lebanon’s waters and steal its natural resources,” Hamdan asserted. “Lebanon strongly warns Israel from drilling its natural gas. It will not tolerate violations of its sovereignty.”
In recent weeks, the Lebanese government has also taken steps to secure what it can, announcing plans to start doling out contracts for underwater exploration of the Levant Basin Province’s natural gas and oil reserves. Beirut is also putting together documents outlining what it considers to be the actual Israeli-Lebanese maritime border, which it plans to submit to the UN Security Council for consideration.
For its part, Israel has pledged that it will be drilling for natural gas only in waters under its control. At the same time, however, the country has refused to back down to Lebanese threats against its natural gas development activities and infrastructure, warning that it will not hesitate to meet force with force. The posturing reveals how strategically important the exploitation of the gas reserves is for both countries. With Lebanon’s population expected to grow by some 400,000 between 2010 and 2025, and Israel’s population projected to grow by 1.8 million in the same time period, there is an acute awareness in both Beirut and Jerusalem that energy demand will be rising in the near future.
A “Bridge Fuel” to a Cleaner Energy Future?
Despite the very real conflict potential of the new natural gas find, the presence of significant reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has also been the cause for limited optimism. In addition to helping ease the oil- and coal-dependence of Israel, Lebanon, and their neighbors, the heightened integration of natural gas into the region’s energy infrastructure may help substantially cut down on carbon emissions, since natural gas is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel. (In 2008, Israel and Lebanon pumped 70.21 metric tons and 14.37 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, respectively, owing largely to their heavy reliance on coal and petroleum.)
Natural gas is also a versatile energy source for electricity production that can be used by the region’s households, businesses, and factories alike. As a result, not only could natural gas’s rising profile in Israel and Lebanon’s respective energy portfolios help improve air quality, it could also accelerate the development of low-polluting, natural gas–fueled automobiles and public transit.
But even given such environmental benefits, the environmental picture is not all rosy. The underwater extraction of natural gas poses potentially severe risks to the maritime environment, one of the reasons that Israelis living in the northern part of the country have steadfastly opposed any potential drilling. (Another source of local residents’ concern has been that the physical infrastructure needed to harvest, store, and later distribute natural gas overland could prove a highly attractive target for Hezbollah-linked militants based in Lebanon.)
In the end, drilling for natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean by both Israel and Lebanon will undoubtedly move forward. The real question is whether given the controversy already unleashed by the Levant Basin Province reserves, Israel and Lebanon will eventually find it in their own enlightened self-interests to strike an accord on developing the region’s natural gas — or instead unleash missiles to protect what they consider rightfully theirs.
Sources: Center for American Progress, Earth Times, National Public Radio, New York Times, Population Reference Bureau, U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Post, Yalibnan.com.
Photo Credit: “UNIFIL Vessel Patrols Lebanese Coast,” courtesy of flickr user United Nations Photo.
Join the Conversation
- Living Through Extremes: Building Livelihood Resilience Across Sectors and Countries Thursday, December 4, 2014
- The Resilience Beat: Reporting on Climate, Population, and Health Wednesday, December 3, 2014
- Addressing Maternal Health and Gender-Based Violence in Times of Crisis Thursday, November 20, 2014
- Every breath you take: the environmental consequences of Iran sanctions
- Bangladesh farmers turn back the clock to combat climate stresses
- Kenyan women pay the price for slum water "mafias"
- Could climate change spell trouble for Kenya's largest river?
- Brazil soy moratorium extended to protect Amazon forest