The Middle East has already seen a 1.5°C increase in average temperatures since the 1990s, but the worst is not over — in the coming decades, the region is expected to experience extended heatwaves and temperature spikes that threaten human survival unless sufficient climate adaptation strategies are implemented. This would be difficult in the best of circumstances, but in places like Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, climate risks will be further compounded by the impact of conflict. No one sector can respond to these challenges alone. Experts from a broad variety of fields — including humanitarian aid, economic development, and climate study — must work together to formulate and strengthen resilience and adaptation efforts in conflict-affected communities across the Middle East. Complementarity between these efforts, implemented at various scales, will be critical to ensure the realization of comprehensive responses that meet the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by war, terrorism, disease, and deprivation.
The Middle East Institute (MEI) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are pleased to hold a panel on the intersection of armed conflict and climate change and the impact on vulnerable communities in the Middle East. Our experts will discuss ways that different governmental and civil society sectors can collaborate on climate action for those most affected — particularly with respect to water security, local development, humanitarian diplomacy, and climate financing.
Clare Dalton, Opening Remarks
Head of Delegation, United Arab Emirates, ICRC
Climate and Environment Officer, Baghdad, ICRC
Non-resident Scholar, Climate and Water Program, Middle East Institute
Senior Advisor, Partnerships, COP 28
Senior Fellow; Director of the Climate and Water Program, Middle East Institute
Meaghan Parker, Moderator
Executive Director, Society of Environmental Journalists
- The MENA region is experiencing significant climate challenges, including extreme water stress, rising temperatures, and environmental degradation, which have far-reaching consequences for the region's ecosystems and communities. These climate challenges are compounded by armed conflict, which has exacerbated the region’s vulnerability and led to severe humanitarian crises, such as access to public health and food security. Climate change has strained resources in an already scarce region, which has resulted in further conflict and displacement. For instance, in Syria, conflict-related destruction of infrastructure has put a strain on essential services, like water and fuel access, and has led to increasing prices.
- Communities facing the dual burden of climate change and armed conflict often receive inadequate attention and support in terms of climate action and financial aid. There is a need to shift this trend and prioritize these vulnerable populations in climate change adaptation efforts. As the panelists discussed, in Yemen, the scarcity of freshwater, coupled with issues such as wastewater pollution, has been a significant factor in the spread of water-borne diseases, notably contributing to the cholera outbreak experienced between 2016 and 2019, ultimately magnifying the hardships faced by conflict-affected populations.
- Addressing the complex challenges in the MENA region requires a collaborative approach involving humanitarian organizations, development actors, climate scientists, policymakers, and government officials. The upcoming COP28 conference hosted by the UAE is an opportune moment to elevate climate action across the region. The capacity to respond to climate impacts varies across the region: some countries, often referred to as the "haves," possess greater financial resources and adaptive capacity compared to others. These disparities highlight the importance of tailoring climate action to the specific context of each sub-region, considering the resources available.
- Due to water scarcity, desalination has become a prevalent method to meet water supply needs, especially in coastal communities. While desalination remains the most effective way to meet short-term needs, the long-term impacts are still being studied: including salinity levels and marine life health. To mitigate environmental impacts, there are efforts to improve the design and operation of desalination plants, including the use of more efficient technologies, better intake and outflow systems, and strategies to minimize harm to marine life.
Detailed Speaker Biographies
Clare Dalton is currently the ICR's Head of Delegation to the United Arab Emirates. In this capacity, she represents the ICRC in the UAE and engages closely with the UAE authorities and other partners on humanitarian issues of mutual concern, including International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Climate, New Technologies, Water and Food Security, as well as supporting ICRC work
worldwide to provide humanitarian assistance to people affected by conflict and armed violence. Prior to this appointment, she was the Head of Humanitarian Diplomacy at ICRC’s Geneva Headquarters. She pioneered this role, leading a multi-disciplinary team joining up all parts of the ICRC’s diplomacy around its institutional policy and diplomacy objectives. She was responsible for designing and delivering effective diplomatic strategies and helping to mobilize political and financial support for the organization. During this time, she led engagement in several multilateral negotiations, additional to overseeing the work of the New York delegation. From 2013-2015, she was the ICRC’s Humanitarian Action Advisor, working closely with the UN in Geneva and New York, sitting on several advisory boards and coordination bodies to calibrate the ICRC’s relationship with the broader humanitarian and development sector. Previously, she spent eight years in a variety of challenging posts and conflict-settings, including Angola, Iraq, Darfur and Nepal as well as later with the ICRC’s Regional Delegation in Nairobi, covering Kenya, Tanzania and Djibouti.
Hayder Alabdali recently joined the ICRC- Iraq delegation lately as a climate change specialist. Before being named as a climate change specialist, Hayder was a team leader with the USAID-funded project working on climate change governance with the Iraqi government. Also, Hayder worked with USAID as a water management consultant and business process reengineering expert. Prior to joining USAID, Hayder was a WATHAB engineer with the ICRC for more than 7 years from 2009 to 2016. Hayder earned a higher diploma in Urban planning from Kufa University in 2018 and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the same university in 2004. Hayder actively contributed to the development of numerous climate-related research and studies, aiming to support the Iraqi government in mitigating the impacts of climate change.
Megan Ferrando is a non-resident scholar with the Climate and Water Program at the Middle East Institute and the grant manager for a humanitarian organization's Syria mission. Her areas of expertise include climate and environmental security, the impact of the climate crisis on vulnerable groups, and the role and responsibilities of the European Union regarding these topics. Megan is currently based in Jordan working for a humanitarian NGO's Syria mission. Previously, Megan worked on sustainable water management projects with NGO WeWorld-GVC in Lebanon. Megan was also a Clara Marina O’Donnell fellow with the London-based think-tank Centre for European Reform (CER), where she conducted research on the links between water scarcity and instability in the Maghreb. Before this, Megan held various positions with humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding NGOs in Brussels, Belgium working on human security issues.
Chris Frassetto is currently a senior advisor for partnerships for the COP28 UAE Presidency, primarily focusing on external engagement and programming for the first ever dedicated thematic day on Relief, Recovery and Peace to be held during a COP process. Previously, he served for eight years at the Permanent Observer Mission of the ICRC to the United Nations engaging on humanitarian issues at the Security Council as well as key intergovernmental processes including the Global Compact on Migration, Habitat 3, and COP26. Prior to this he held various positions at United Nations Headquarters and was an analyst for an international business think tank focused on customs treaties.
Mohammed Mahmoud’s areas of expertise include climate change adaptation, water policy analysis, and scenario planning. Previously, he was a senior policy analyst with the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, where he provided research, modeling, and analysis on inter-state Colorado River Basin programs and binational water issues between the United States and Mexico. Mohammed has conducted water management research and work for the Middle East and North Africa region; most extensively on the Nile River Basin. His research on the Nile River Basin focused on the development of water resources in the Basin, analysis of Nile water- sharing agreements, and solutions for current and future challenges in the Nile River Basin. Mohammed’s other water management work in the region explored formalizing the administration of Saudi Arabia’s groundwater resources by using other established groundwater management frameworks as application templates; such as Arizona’s 1980 Groundwater Management Code.
Meaghan Parker became the executive director of the Society of Environmental Journalists in 2018, after serving six years on the SEJ Board of Directors. Previously, she was the senior writer/editor and partnerships director for the Environmental Change and Security Program and the Global Sustainability and Resilience Program of the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan policy forum in Washington, DC, where she worked for 15 years and founded the award-winning New Security Beat, a daily blog covering environment, health and security. She was the lead editor of "A New Climate for Peace," an online platform and independent study commissioned by the foreign ministers of the G7. She was the supervising producer of the award-winning documentary trilogy, "Healthy People, Healthy Environment," which was filmed in Tanzania, Nepal and Ethiopia. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of The Uproot Project and on the Advisory Council of Planet Forward; and she is a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, JAWS (Journalism and Women Symposium), and the National Association of Science Writers.
Photo by Rami Al Sayed via Getty Images