On the 8th of September, Morocco experienced a devastating earthquake that claimed the lives of nearly 3000 people. A mere three days later, the city of Derna faced the collapse of two dams that were rendered weak due to Storm Daniel and the resultant heavy rains.
With thousands dead and still more missing in Libya, survivors have come to protest against what they view as a corrupt system and demand justice for the loss of friends and family. While officials insist that natural causes like storms and rain were out of their hands, locals are adamant that a mismanagement of the political system, rampant corruption, and unheeded warnings specific to the now-destroyed dams is at the root of the disaster. Amidst the protests, the mayor’s house was burnt down and looters were found scavenging for cash and gold.
Libya is not the only country in the MENA region facing unrest and hardship. In Syria, protests against Bashar Assad have continued for a month. In Tunisia, migrant crises and unemployment have taken a turn for the worse since the First Arab Spring. Morocco is not unfamiliar with protests against the government. There are also fears of Egypt and Tunisia being the next Lebanon when it comes to their debt crises, exacerbating economic hardship.
Frustration with economic mismanagement and corruption has come to persist across North Africa and the Levant region.
As in the unrest in 2011, disturbances in MENA could spill over into the GCC. With timely delivery of aid into disaster-afflicted areas, the GCC is visibly aware of developments, but a further exacerbation of violence would need to be observed with caution.
Should a disturbance occur, the role of regional hegemon and interventionist would most likely be filled by either Saudi Arabia or the UAE or a partnership of both countries.
Worsening economic conditions and civil rights would also mean an increase in the number of migrant boats exiting the region. Refugee crises stemming from North Africa have already caused much friction in the EU Parliament and in Germany. Increased movement of people from North Africa into Europe could cause a further divide in European society. At best, the EU could come up with a migrants/refugee management plan. At worst, events similar to the protests against the French Police in the summer could become the norm.
Impact of natural disasters will once again be at the top of the agenda in climate change dialogue.