Globalisation, Technology and Sustainable Development Book Series
Science,Technology and Sustainability in the Middle East and North Africa

Allam Ahmed


Preface

We are pleased to present the first volume of a series of books devoted to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

This book was motivated principally by my interest in the multidimensional relationship between science, technology and Sustainable Development (SD). The main objective of this book is to critically examine the complex relationship between science, technology and the environment. In doing so, a holistic approach is used to provide an in-depth analysis and state-of-the-art overview of the efforts made by the different countries in the MENA region to tackle these challenges of sustainability and SD.

Unlike all regions of the world, there is a growing interest in the MENA region and its culture over the last period. Many people across the world consider MENA as the most important part of the world in the 21st century. MENA is also strategically very important as it produces the majority of the world’s oil. What happens in the region will therefore have direct and indirect effects all over the world and that is why the region is rarely out of the headlines in all international news.

In general, MENA countries share similar political systems characterised as theocratic, traditional monarchies, based on a tribal system with large royal families. Governments heavily regulate most social and political activities and preserve an active involvement in business affairs. However, understanding the nature of problems, challenges and opportunities in the region is a very difficult task for many people outside its territories. In fact, defining the territories of the region is the first obstacle that I have faced despite all the information and analysis available to me during the last three years.

The World Bank for example defines the MENA region as Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, West bank and Gaza and Yemen. Many other international institutions define MENA as extending from Morocco to Turkey along the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean and as far east as Iran and south to the Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. And while some recent books about the region argue that it would be misleading to include countries like Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia as part of MENA, these neighbouring countries have also been referred to as part of the MENA region by different scholars and institutions

Therefore, the definition of the MENA region is often unclear and there is no single definition that fully captures the different key historical, cultural and contemporary factors such as Islam, oil, role of the USA, colonialism and the foundation of the state of Israel, but by being clear about our meaning of the region and the underlying assumptions, we can progress our understanding of the MENA region and its future challenges and opportunities.

Despite the global significance of MENA’s oil, most MENA countries score lower on the Human Development Index (HDI). The region is very heterogonous with GDP, productivity and investment rates well below the global average. It is, therefore, generally recognised that the dominant economic model of the region – based on the public sector, oil incomes and workers’ remittances – is not up to the challenges of globalisation. Given the apparently contradictory needs of economic growth and environmental conservation, it comes as no surprise that SD has had such a powerful influence in contemporary discussions on the future of the region.

This book represents the outcome of many comprehensive research programmes undertaken in different countries in the MENA region and other parts of the world since 2005. We have received more than 46 chapters for possible inclusion in the book covering a wide range of focus and scope of the theme to the extent that we had a difficulty in deciding the chapters that are to be included in the first volume in this series. We have finally selected 22 chapters with an interesting profile for this volume after a blind peer review process. The different chapters in this volume cover a wide geographical spectrum and written by more than 50 renowned international experts from all over the world.

The five main sections of the book are:

Information and Knowledge Management (5 chapters)
Science Technology and Innovation (6 chapters)
Food Safety and Public Health (4 chapters)
Water Resources (3 chapters)
Managing the Environment (4 chapters)

It is hoped that the ensemble of chapters presented in this volume will help to stimulate debate amongst scholars, researchers and policymakers within and outside the MENA region with a view to defining common, effective responses to tomorrow’s challenges. This book is intended as a first step in paving the way towards further reflection on the future position and role of the MENA region in the World.

Finally, we hope this book will be utilised as a guide by policymakers and senior managers to enhance their ability to think strategically towards achieving SD.

Allam Ahmed
Brighton, August 2007