A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about some of the major environmental concerns within the Middle East and how these issues are often overlooked because of the political unrest of the region. I’ve since been interested as to what actions are being taken by people in the Middle East to preserve their land. While researching, I stumbled upon an organization that seeks both to address the environmental issues in the Middle East and promote peace and cultural understanding between conflicting ideologies.
The Friends of the Earth Middle East is a group made up of environmentalists from Jordan, Palestine, and Israel, with offices in all three regions. They are currently a sub-group of Friends of the Earth International, but were initially founded in 1994 as “EcoPeace.” FoEME describes its mission on the group’s website:
“Our primary objective is the promotion of cooperative efforts to protect our shared environmental heritage. In so doing, we seek to advance both sustainable regional development and the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in our region.”
Throughout the organization’s 20 year existence, its members have striven to realize this goal, navigating a tense political climate to accomplish their work. They are motivated by the understanding that nations within the Middle East have no choice but to work together to solve environmental problems. Life in the Middle East depends on access to many of the same natural resources. The highly-contested land has been severely damaged by decades of war and overutilization of natural resources, and FoEME sees this as one issue that everyone in the area should have a united desire to fix.
They operate by hiring locals from each of their three regions who research the issues of that area and establish strategies for implementing beneficial change in the community. FoEME believes that this individualized approach has contributed to their achievements:
“A key to our success has been that once the common vision has been developed, our staff from our respective offices take the same vision and present it to their respective audiences; Palestinian to Palestinian, Jordanian to Jordanian and Israeli to Israeli.” –Friends of the Earth Middle East website
One of FoEME’s most notable projects in recent years has been their proposal for an agreement to share water between Israel and Palestine. This proposal, in response to the ongoing conflict regarding water usage by Israelis and Palestinians, recommends a joint management structure to better communications and resolve issues. You can take a look at the full proposal on their website.
FoEME is also an active supporter of UN recognition of a Palestinian state, which they believe is a critical step in the peace process between Israel and Palestine.
Reading about groups such as FoEME is refreshing, and I believe that their methods of cross-cultural communication and cooperation are good places to start in resolving both the political and environmental turmoil of the Middle East. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section!