Human security and energy transition in NATO’s South
- NDC Policy Brief 05-2023: Human security and energy transition in NATO’s South , by Eckart Woertz*
Energy lies at the heart of human security and development challenges facing the arid and energy rich Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. While risks such as water shortages, food insecurity, political instability and forced migration have received ample attention from analysts, energy transitions have comparatively received less scrutiny. Energy transitions present more development opportunities than risks for external actors, and these risks transcend borders by entangling the MENA within a broader geography that ultimately affects European security. Within this entanglement lie opportunities that could be harnessed to improve cooperation, sustainability and human security for NATO and Partners in the MENA.
Framing energy and climate change as security threats has a long history in international cooperation with the MENA. As NATO responds to the war in Ukraine and rethinks its crisis management tools, raising awareness of new risks while grasping potential opportunities becomes all the more important given the return of strategic competition to the MENA. The implementation of the 2022 Strategic Concept and its focus on “resilience” requires Allies to go beyond traditional securitized views of development. This Policy Brief highlights two trends that will likely impact energy transitions in the MENA for the coming years: transnational critical infrastructure; and the development of new hydrocarbon and alternative energy resources. The first will influence regional geopolitics while the second will impact energy security in the MENA and Europe. Concerning energy resources, we examine two developments: growing supplies of natural gas and green hydrogen – a zero emissions process of generating hydrogen from water. Cooperation with MENA countries on energy transitions can enhance European security by contributing to socio-economic development in MENA countries. To this end, NATO can play a role in tandem with the EU and individual Allies.
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* (back) Director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at the German Insti- tute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) and Professor of contemporary history and politics of the Middle East at the University of Hamburg.