Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began, recently adopted a new constitution. And it has become only the third constitution in the world to include a reference to climate change (the other two are Ecuador and the Dominican Republic).
According to Raveena Aulakh of the Toronto Star, the new constitution obliges the Tunisian state to “contribute to the protection of the climate … for future generations.” It also goes on to assert that the “state shall provide the necessary means to eliminate environmental pollution.”
The reference to climate change was introduced by MP Dr. Dhamir Mannai, who according to RTCC: “said legislators were concerned about the potential impacts a warming world could have on Tunisia.” This is good news that will not go unnoticed, particularly as other nations in the region and elsewhere struggle through their own transitions.
Related to this development, on June 7, 2013 we published an Op-Ed on climate change in the context of the so-called “Arab Spring” in the influential Tunisian news outlet Nawaat. This built off our multi-author report “The Arab Spring and Climate Change.“As we stated in the conclusion of that report:
…addressing the effects of climate change in the Arab world will be critical for ensuring the longer-term stability of the region and legitimacy of its respective governments. As Arab publics demand voice and representation, they will also demand that their governments provide them with the resources necessary not just for protection and survival but also for growth and prosperity. If mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects is not integrated into the policies and plans of new and existing governments, and if the international community does not assist in this endeavor, the social contract between citizen and government in the Arab world will likely not improve, and the stability and prosperity of the region may erode.
The pursuit of democracy, prosperity, and stability in the Arab world is intimately tied to its own natural resources, and those of nations on the other side of the world. Climate change places a significant stress on those resources, but this climate and resource crisis can also serve as an opportunity for governments in the region, along with the international community, to reject the mistakes of the past. They can together help build freer, more sustainable, and more resilient societies—societies that are responsive to the winds of change, both social and natural, while still capable of finding stable ground to stand on.