At the dawn of the Easter weekend, in a Geneva castle, former Moroccan Environment Minister Hakima El Haite called for an African rebirth. It was during an animated day-long Chatham House round on the 7th of April organized by the UEMF University and its Rector Djawed Sangdel. Hosted and chaired by Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic, as part of a School’s post-graduate program, Excellency El Haite delighted the participants with her passionate speech on the current geopolitical and economic situation of Africa as well as the climate challenges we are facing today as citizens of Earth.
Born on May 13, 1963, in Fez, Morocco, Hakima El Haite, is an internationally recognized leader in the fields of sustainable development environment and climate change, a climate scientist, an entrepreneur, and a politician. Biology, microbiology, and ecotoxicology graduate, El Haite has two PhDs in environmental engineering and environmental studies as well as a political communication diploma.
Currently the first Woman and first non-European president of the Liberal International since December 2018, she’s also the founder of EauGlobe, the first environmental engineering firm in the African and Middle Eastern region.
In 2007, she became president of the Association of Women Entrepreneurs in Morocco and of the International Network of Liberal Women, an organization of liberalist female personalities.
She has also worked as an expert with the World Bank in charge of monitoring waste projects in the MENA region Regional solid waste management project in the Mashreq and Maghreb countries-METAP project.
In 2013, El Haite was appointed Minister Delegate in Charge of the Environment for the Minister of Energy, Mines, Water, and Environment in Morocco.
She participated in the 2013 COP19 in Warsaw and COP20 in Lima before taking a leading role as Vice President in COP21 for the climate change negotiations in Paris in December 2015.
In May 2016, she was appointed a “High-Level Climate Change Champion” by the Conference of Parties during COP22 and one of the world’s 100 most influential people in climate policy in 2019.
She is also Vice President of US-NAPEO, the US-North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity, and Connect Ingroup International, the first organization to train women for appointed office.
She was recognized by decorations in the US, Spain and France.
El Haite evoked the peculiarity of the Ukraine war, held at the backdoor of the oldest democracy in our world: Europe. This war has brought many consequences on every country, opposing two big reservoirs of wheat and energy and it’s impacting every single one of us. El Haite denounced strongly the lack of efforts from the European and US leaders to make peace or try to establish a dialogue with Putin to end the war. She also passionately reminded the audience that there is no acceptable historical reason which can justify war and the human loss that it engenders.
The Honorable Minister also reminded us that the Ukraine war is dangerously creating a precedent and setting an example for anarchy if we don’t respect the rule of law and the multilateral order.
Talking about the migration movement which resulted after the Ukraine war started, El Haite expressed the outraged sentiment the African people felt when seeing that the Ukrainian migrants were treated in another way for the first time because they were blonde and fair-skinned Europeans, when those same countries which opened their borders, usually push back African and Middle Eastern refugees. Even more astonishing, some Africans escaping Ukraine, were refused access to Poland because of the color of their skin.
El Haite strongly denounced the lack of representation of the African continent during discussions even directly affecting African countries. She stated that the UN is a great tool, but Africa is not represented, and the winners of WWII sitting in the Security Council are deciding for everyone without asking anyone else’s opinion. The Minister called for a renewal of the multilateral order which could maybe bring peace.
Very passionate in her campaign for a democratic, strong, free, and peaceful African continent, which uses its own resources instead of being exploited, El Haite reminded us how rich is the continent, holding 6 million arable lands, 80% of the world mineral reserves and 14% of the world’s oil reserves. Still recovering from 5 centuries of slavery and colonialism, “Africa is one of the richest continents where poor people live and there is no infrastructure, our continent can feed the world and we have 25 million people dying every day”- she bitterly stated.
El Haite also lankly addressed terrorism’s presence in Africa and stops the evolution and development of the countries. The issue of insecure corridors and the lack of electricity, water, and sanitation infrastructures are slowing down Africa’s development. She called for an urgent need for peace and funds to fight against terrorists and authoritarian regimes and change the fact that 90% of the world’s conflicts are in Africa and in the Middle East.
Last but not least El Haite expressed her concerns about climate change. The world’s most endangered hotspots are the Sub-Saharan region in Africa, the Mediterranean, and the small islands threatened by the constant increase of the sea level because of the ice melt. El Haite alarmed the audience on the 30% to 60% of the ice cap drop and the potential flood of European countries like Sweden and Finland.
At the origin of the preparation of the Paris Agreement negotiations, trying to define the rules to implement to decrease CO2 emissions, El Haite reflected on the need for changing the whole agriculture, building, transportation, and consumption system. She pointed out that even though 80% of the CO2 emissions are produced by the developed world, Africa will be increasing its emissions because everything still has to be built, and it would be hypocritical to ask them to be the ones who decrease the emissions, therefore the need to differentiate responsibility.
El Haite recalled the discussions with the US on the objective of Zero Emissions, which was rejected in favor of Carbon Neutrality, balancing the heaviest emitters and the fewer emitters to achieve neutrality. The environment expert expressed her deep concern about the shadowed urgency of climate change, shadowed by the constant crises the world is facing, the pandemic, the war, and the inflation.
She expressed the distress we should all feel knowing that the objectives fixed won’t be achieved and that we will never be able to come back to the previous situation and even if we totally stopped the emissions today, we will still suffer from their impact for the next 20 years. El Haite asserted that the climate we will experience in the next few years will be one we have never seen before. Worldwide natural catastrophes have increased, reaching even Europe and developed countries. Nonetheless, these countries have financial and technological capacities to deal with these hazards whereas the African continent doesn’t have the same strength.
Summing up the day with the Rector Sangdel, Excellency El Haite concluded her speech by reminding the audience that “Nobody is safe until everybody is safe”, inviting everyone to reflect on the impact on nature, the one we cannot negotiate with.
The entertaining and inspiring tit-for-tat exchange between the former Minister and the participants ended with an open question, a search, and a quest for solutions, to live in a better world, and leave a nice healthy environment for future generations.