Thursday, 23 November 2017 22:27

COP22 : Interview with Mr. Abdellah Boussouf

Tuesday, 08 November 2016

Many questions come to mind regarding the correlation between climate change, migration and the Moroccan community abroad. In light of the waves of migration, what could be the link between COP22 and migratory matters?

M. Boussouf : As the organizer of the COP22, Morocco claims to be at the same level as other countries, which have the capability to host large-scale events and naturally contribute to resolving international issues. The mission of our nation during this COP will mainly be of executive nature as this conference was preceded by the COP21 during which all parties committed to adhere a process designed to protect the environment and to mitigate climate change impacts.

Consequently, the Kingdom’s mission during this summit is to define the execution mechanisms to take up the climate challenge. His Majesty wants to position this event as an African summit. Indeed, Africa is the continent most impacted by global warming and these effects will determine its future.

  The Africa focus carries a particular important as the decisions made in Africa today will have global implications in the future and climate changes have an immediate impact on peace and global security. His Majesty the King aims to make Morocco the voice of Africa and he will unite African countries at the Conference of the Parties to defend this noble cause. The latter will contribute to world peace. Naturally migration is tightly linked to climate change as Man is the primary victim of its consequences. Changing locations, in other words migrating, will be His first reaction, fleeing drought, floods or any other natural disaster. For the Council of the Moroccan Community Abroad (CCME) it is vital to make migration a priority on all leaders’ agendas both in Morocco and in Africa as our destinies are tightly linked. One of the primary causes of sub-Saharan migration is linked to climate changes, namely drought, which constitutes a threat to both security and peace in several countries in the region. The most striking example is the Chad Lake which lost 80% of its surface due to global warming. On the border of Niger, Nigeria and Cameroun, the drought of Lake Chad has been at the very core of ethnic and tribal conflicts and even entire countries. We also know that the populations of West Africa suffer from the drought and are fleeing it towards the northers countries. Global warming has also caused the Mediterranean Sea to become an open sky cemetery for thousands of African migrants who risk their lives for a better future or as often is the case simply to survive. So yes, migration is at the very heart of the COP22 concerns and if the adage says that « money is the sinews of war », I think that in today’s world climate changes are the sinews of war.

It seems that Africa has been at the margin of important international decisions during previous editions of the Conference of Parties. How can Morocco take up the challenge to have the voice of Africa heard at the COP22?

M. Boussouf : We have to take up this challenge because Africa did not work hard enough in the past to make its voice heard. In order to move forward, we have to challenge the efficiency of regional organizations and the African Union (UA) in particular which has to unite African countries around the issues that unite them, namely that of climate change. The Kingdom of Morocco is deeply attached to its African roots. This attachment was very strongly expressed by His majesty the King during his travels across the continent. Our country is committed to make the voice of Africa heard on the international stage, particularly with developed countries, who are the main wrongdoers in climate changes as highly industrialized countries are the greatest polluters. Hos Majesty the King conveys our responsibility to close the gap of the regional African organizations through his speeches and actions. To loudly proclaim Africa’s expectations and unite around a common project. The November 16th summit will outline this project and invite all parties to cooperate and uphold their individual responsibilities.   The 100 million dollars allocated to the « green box » won’t suffice. Particularly the budget allocated to Africa as the challenges ahead will most certainly cost a lot more: global warming, drought, alternative agriculture… If Morocco is able to unify Africa, we will be able to influence the decisions of developed countries together, namely on the topic of migration. Up to now, we have been witnessing an alarming legal void regarding « climatic asylum », which clearly isn’t a top priority for developed countries.  Worse, it is not even recognized as a legitimate reason for asylum. In spite of research presented by the United Nations (UN) or the International Migration Organization, which state that the number of climatic refugees will reach 250 million by 2050 and at least 50 million Sub-Saharan migrants will arrive in Morocco and North Africa.  The Paris agreements have not made any provision regarding climatic asylum. We do not believe that migration related issues can be resolved by limited initiatives and bilateral agreements, these need to become the cause of an entire continent and approached as one common project. In the future, Morocco will have to face the disastrous consequences of both climate change and waves of Sub-Saharan migrants. This will require a close collaboration between all the countries in the region. 

Africa is the only continent to have fragmented perceptions. Environmental issues are not a political priority for African countries. Within the CCME, you have defined 3 priorities, namely to unite the efforts of African institutions which oversee migration. How do you envisage your cooperation with these institutions?

M. Boussouf : The CCME participation at the COP22 is quite modest as are its financial capacities, which limits its leeway. We will take in this conference by inviting several African key migration stakeholders. We aim to unite the African institutions around a common strategy allowing us to work together both during and after the COP22. Our intent is to create a forum of African migration institutions as an output of this event, which should generate answers to environmental issues in general and climatic migration in particular.  Our second objective is to work on the migratory movements in Europe, America and Canada in order to heighten awareness on the importance of climate change and climatic asylum, which will be core in years to come.  The United States are currently building walls with Mexico, Europe opts for a security strategy against the waves of migrants, whilst Syrian and sub-Saharan refugees perish every day by thousands off the Mediterranean coasts. Most recently last week, no less than 3000 migrants perished. We have to unite with the communities of these countries and environmental militants to soften, sensitize and humanize the political positions of developed countries with respect to their treatment of migrants and migration issues. The third objective of this encounter is probably to bring climate changes to the forefront of the African political agenda and to unite against the devastating consequences of global warming on the continent and to be prepared, to share our resources if needed. No one can face these changes alone. We are convinced that by uniting our efforts, economically, culturally and socially, we will be able to take up any challenge.

Are you planning on bringing together Moroccan competencies around the globe to tackle climate challenges as part of the cooperation with African migration institutions?   

M. Boussouf : Yes. This is reflected through the selection of our guests as the symposium the CCME will be hosting on 11 and 12 November in Marrakech. We will be bringing together Moroccan scientific competencies from Africa and Europe, which offer expertise in the areas of environment as well as climate change. The forum will focus on bringing together these competencies in order to better leverage their expertise in the future. The date of this event is still be defined. The Marrakech event will therefore only be a kick-off, which will define a roadmap for these Moroccan competencies, which are active within renowned universities and environmental research labs.  This will allows us to dramatically increase visibility of the African cause.. If the current situation, although quite alarming, does not raise the interest of every African, whatever their location, will be not be able to face the challenges of climate change. We have to uphold scientific knowledge, find answer to desertification, lake droughts and any other consequences of climate change in alternative agriculture, sustainable development, renewable energy etc. We know that the l’Office chérifien des phosphates (OCP) has looks very closely to the production of fertilizers for instance. But we are convinced that without a high-end expertise in the area we will not be able to achieve sufficient production levels to warrant the required food supplies. We will thus be inviting politicians from the higher education arena of several African countries in order to devise political strategies uniting the efforts of African competencies around the globe and implicate them in the process launched for our continent. Truth be told, Morocco has not yet mastered the skill to manage its competencies abroad and efficiently integrate them upon their return home. A Harvard professor with 10-15 years of experience is considered an entry-level professor. Furthermore, the status of contractor does not exist within Moroccan universities.   All these topics will be included in the development of public politics which warrant the global mobility of African competencies. The brilliant researcher Rachid Yamazi, decorated by His majesty The King winner of the 2014 Charles Stark Draper prize and considered a Nobel by engineers and many eminent researchers and specialists will be amongst our guests at the «  climate changes : new approaches, new technologies, new opportunities – implication of African competencies around the globe » symposium. Our main ambition is to create a scientific lobby around African competencies in the world and to unite then around the African cause.

But will the host countries be willing to promote causes which don’t concern them? 

M. Boussouf : this is the very reason we need to create a powerful lobby which will serve as leverage to warrant that the causes we uphold are a priority on political agendas as it is common knowledge that all major projects are  carried by the most powerful lobbies. This can be achieved by a series of mechanisms which are yet to be defined as Africa cannot face the consequences of climate change caused by powerful and industrialized countries on its own. Currently these countries equate the help allocated to migrants to charity whilst they are at the very heart of what causes them to migrate in the first place and need to take full responsibility. We have to convince the European political opinion that this is a historical and humane right thus pushing back on extreme right thesis in the countries.

Is it a message you are sending to Europe to take responsibility for climate changes, which could in essence be the cause for these migrations? 

M. Boussouf : Africa needs to communicate a strong message and avoid bilateral relations with developed countries, particularly when it relates to the topic of migration. We need to address these countries as one voice, the voice of Africa. I think that Morocco is already following this path thanks to His Majesty the King Mohammed VI’s strong political common sense. The topic of climate change is very strongly tied to security and world peace and if we continue allowing industrialized countries to move forward at their pace it will cause the destruction of all of us.  We carry the responsibility to sound the alarm. Amongst all the studies conducted around the Syrian crisis, many have pointed out the drought, which affected the country between 2007 and 2011 and was at the very core of the massive exodus from rural areas into the cities. This may consequently have impacted the economic, social and political stability.  When waves of migrants flow into a host country, it requires an expertise in the management of their needs. Today we are witnessing a massive expansion of refugee camps being managed without any level of expertise in many African countries. Our only option is to unite the efforts of all African stakeholders. 

You referred to the actions which will continue after the COP22. With respect to the preparations, do you believe that the organisers have effectively communicated to Moroccans about this?

M. Boussouf : Of course. Our preparations are different from those of the French in many ways. The main driver being financial means. However, we have no obligation to duplicate the French model and are very capable of creating our own. We have the innovation and creativity to achieve this. Quite unfortunately the COP22 will not offer the opportunities it could have generated for Morocco and which could have sailed upon. International media offer limited coverage of the COP22 and it raises the question upon the level of effort we have invested in putting our presence as a country under the spotlight. As we say in medical terms, the most lethal illnesses are the silent ones. This can be assimilated to climate change.  We could have showcased the Moroccan popular cultural heritage, which by definition protects the environment and nature. Think about the popular adages related to dietary habits of Moroccans, which could easily have been exploited considering climate changes primarily threatens food security. Religious traditions could also have been utilized in the same way and positioned Moroccans at the very centre of the COP22 concerns. I am particularly thinking of water management in Islam, dedicated in a book signed by Professor Aziz Benabdellah in which he details how to use water without wasting nor polluting it. Bottom line, if we had drawn into our popular culture, we could surely have involved every Moroccan citizen.  The COP22 doesn’t have a magic wand, it will simply share recommendations.  It will then be up to the citizens to translate them into actions in their daily lives. We cannot continue to lead our live an accelerated and devastating pace of mass consumption.  We need to need to develop an educational communication toolbox aimed at the population. These tools are currently fairly inexistent in our communication strategy compared to cartoons and books which are distributed amongst schools in France designed to heighten awareness in the scope of the COP21. We have ignore this young population and we need to turn things around now as these children are tomorrow’s adults.

 

Translated by Amina TALHIMET from the Moroccan Newspaper Al Massae

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