Meet IIIEE researcher Tareq Emtairah
Refugee influx calls for a new university role
How can Lund University respond to the call for action with regard to the ongoing refugee influx? Tareq Emtairah, back at the IIIEE after three years working on renewable energy in the Arab region, suggests a programme facilitating for refugee students and academics to contribute to post-conflict sustainability in their home regions.
When we meet in his office, researcher Tareq Emtairah has just returned home to Lund with his two children after spending a week in Jordan, visiting his parents who still live there.
“The situation is very difficult. Even though Jordan is not a country at war, the people there live under a tremendous pressure. In many respects, the whole region and mainly Syria needs to be rebuilt as soon as possible. The already major lack of infrastructure in terms of water, energy systems, waste management, food production etcetera will increase. Without these societal components in place, people will not be able to return to their homes and rebuild their lives.
This is where Tareq Emtairah sees an opportunity for Lund University.
“As a university we need to ask ourselves: What can we do to assist in this situation? How can we use our skills and knowledge to be of help?”, he says.
Tareq Emtairah wants to see Lund University offer a study programme to displaced students and scholars from conflict regions. Such a programme could provide a place for innovation for and visioning of post-conflict sustainable reconstruction of society, as refugees return to their cities and regions.
“Many refugees who come to Sweden have the right academic background to work with these issues, but if they are trapped in a professional vacuum for a long time, they will lose their knowledge, skills and opportunities. And so will society”, says Tareq Emtairah.
As a first step, together with colleagues at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, Tareq Emtairah is preparing a one-day workshop on 11 February. His aim is for participants to explore and discuss how higher education institutions can contribute to a programme or to visioning spaces, while at the same time engaging and building capacities among the community of displaced scholars and students.
“We know that if designed properly, visioning as a learning experience can change mindsets and influence decision making for future actions”, he says.
Tareq Emtairah knows the Middle East region very well. Palestinian by birth, he grew up in Jordan, where his family still lives. A year in the US as a high school exchange student became the start of a life with an international profile, and by now Tareq Emtairah has studied and worked in the Middle East, Europe and in the US.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency have become his specialities, and Tareq Emtairah is recently back at the IIIEE in Lund after three years in Cairo where he held the position as Director of the Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE) – an organisation working for the implementation of renewable energy and energy efficient practices in the Arab region.
“The Arab region has the world’s highest potential in solar and wind energy, but today renewable energy still only accounts for as little as 1.5% of the total consumption. The RCREEE addresses this weakness by designing and offering tools and market instruments for policy makers and officials”, he says.
According to Tareq Emtairah, there are several reasons behind the low rate of renewable energy in the Arab region. They are all interlinked and begin with the adverse presence of conflicts and unstable regimes.
“Out of the RCREEE’s 13 member countries, we have only been working with five or six in the past few years. Without stable regimes the market does not show confidence in a transition, especially since the payback on the investments is rather slow. And without investors, nothing happens. But there are positive signs as well, such as implementations in Jordan and Morocco”, he says.
Returning to Sweden and the IIIEE, Tareq Emtairah is now focusing on teaching and research and hopefully also the development of a study programme for refugees.
“I see the potential in sustainable development and especially in renewably energy for the development of the Middle East and the Arab region. We know that energy efficiency creates more jobs per dollar invested than fossil energy. Energy efficiency is also an effective way to reach climate targets, which is a strong reason for other countries and regions to support development here.”
Text and photo: Sara Bernstrup Nilsson
Design workshop: Post-conflict sustainability labs:
One-day event, 11 February 2016
Organiser: IIIEE and Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University
Purpose: To explore and discuss roles for higher education institutions to contribute to addressing the current migration challenges through providing spaces for post-conflict innovation and visioning and sustainable re-building of homes far away while at the same time engaging and building capacities among the community of displaced scholars and students
Outcome: To provide input into the design of an extended learning experience for integrating displaced scholars and students, based on visioning spaces and sustainable development goals, by addressing the following questions:
- How can sustainability visioning labs be leveraged as instruments for capacity building and accelerated learning?
- How can visioning labs be used to generate alternative narratives that instil hope, avoid marginalisation and disappointment, and shape mindsets that embrace post-conflict futures?
Participants will be invited from departments at Lund University and other national and international stakeholders, including networks working with displaced scholars.