The Middle East and North Africa is a geographic region whose countries are often referred to by the acronym MENA. It is also known as WANA, SWANA, or NAWA, which alternatively refers to the Middle East as West Asia or as Southwest Asia; this is another way to reference the geographical region, instead of using the more common political terminology.
As a regional identifier, MENA is often used in academia, military planning, disaster relief, media planning (as a broadcast region), and business writing. Moreover, the region shares a number of cultural, economic, and environmental similarities across its comprising countries; for example, some of the most extreme impacts of climate change will be felt in MENA.
Some terms have a wider definition than MENA, such as MENASA, MENAP, or Greater Middle East, which extends to the countries in the regions of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) and South Asia (Afghanistan, Maldives, and Pakistan), which have had significant Islamic influence, as well as their use of the Arabic script. The term MENAT explicitly includes Turkey, which is usually excluded from some MENA definitions, even though Turkey is almost always considered part of the Middle East.
The Middle East and North Africa has no standardized definition; different organizations define the region as consisting of different territories, or do not define it as a region at all.
There is no MENA region amongst the United Nations Regional Groups, nor in the United Nations geoscheme used by the UNSD (though the latter does feature two subregions called 'Western Asia' and 'Northern Africa', see WANA). Some agencies and programmes of the United Nations do define the MENA region, but their definitions may contradict each other, and sometimes only apply to specific studies or reports.
|United Arab Emirates||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|*Also called State of Palestine, (Occupied) Palestinian Territories, Palestinian Authority, or West Bank and Gaza (Strip).|
Historians Michael Dumper and Bruce Stanley stated in 2007: 'For the purposes of this volume, the editors have generally chosen to define the MENA region as stretching from Morocco to Iran and from Turkey to the Horn of Africa. This definition thus includes the twenty-two countries of the Arab League (including the Palestinian Authority enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza Strip), Turkey, Israel, Iran, and Cyprus.' They stressed, however, how controversial and problematic this definition is, and that other choices could also have been made according to various criteria.
For its December 2012 global religion survey, the Pew Research Center grouped 20 countries and territories as 'the Middle East and North Africa', namely: 'Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, the Palestinian territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Western Sahara and Yemen.'
For the Global Peace Index 2020, the Institute for Economics & Peace defined the MENA region as containing 20 countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Due to the geographic ambiguity and Eurocentric nature of the term "Middle East", some people, especially in sciences such as agriculture and climatology, prefer to use other terms like "WANA" (West Asia and North Africa) or the less common NAWA (North Africa-West Asia). Usage of the term WANA has also been advanced by postcolonial studies.
The United Nations geoscheme used by the UNSD does not define a single WANA region, but it does feature two subregions called Western Asia and Northern Africa, respectively:
In a 1995 publication, the then-Aleppo-based International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) defined its West Asia/North Africa (WANA) region as 25 countries, including: 'Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.' It noted that CGIAR's Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) excluded Ethiopia, Sudan and Pakistan from its 1992 WANA definition, but otherwise listed the same countries. In a 2011 study, ICARDA stated 27 countries/territories: 'The WANA region includes: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gaza Strip, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.'
*Also called State of Palestine, or West Bank and Gaza (Strip).
In a preparatory working paper for the June 2004 G8 Summit, the U.S. government (at the end of the George W. Bush administration's first term) defined the 'Greater Middle East as including the Arab states, Israel, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
From April 2013, the International Monetary Fund started using a new analytical region called MENAP (Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan), which adds Afghanistan and Pakistan to MENA countries. Now MENAP is a prominent economic grouping in IMF reports.
MENASA refers to the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region. Its usage consists of the region of MENA together with South Asia, with Dubai chosen by the United Nations as the data hub for the region. In some contexts, specifically the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, the region is abbreviated as SAMENA instead of the more common MENASA.
The term MENAT (Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey) has been used to include Turkey in the list of MENA countries.
The term Near East was commonly used before the term Middle East was coined by the British in the early 20th century. The term Ancient Near East is commonly used by scholars for the region in antiquity. Some organisations and scholars insist on still using 'Near East' today, with some including North Africa, but definitions range widely and there is no consensus on its geographical application.
EMME refers to a grouping of 18 nations situated in and around the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. The 18 nations in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East are: Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, UAE, and Yemen.
Climate change in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) refers to changes in the climate of the MENA region and the subsequent response, adaption and mitigation strategies of countries in the region. In 2018, the MENA region emitted 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and produced 8.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) despite making up only 6% of the global population. These emissions are mostly from the energy sector, an integral component of many Middle Eastern and North African economies due to the extensive oil and natural gas reserves that are found within the region. The region of Middle East is one of the most vulnerable to climate change. The impacts include increase in drought conditions, aridity, heatwaves and sea level rise.
Sharp global temperature and sea level changes, shifting precipitation patterns and increased frequency of extreme weather events are some of the main impacts of climate change as identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The MENA region is especially vulnerable to such impacts due to its arid and semi-arid environment, facing climatic challenges such as low rainfall, high temperatures and dry soil. The climatic conditions that foster such challenges for MENA are projected by the IPCC to worsen throughout the 21st century. If greenhouse gas emissions are not significantly reduced, part of the MENA region risks becoming uninhabitable before the year 2100.Climate change is expected to put significant strain on already scarce water and agricultural resources within the MENA region, threatening the national security and political stability of all included countries. Over 60 percent of the region’s population lives in high and very high water-stressed areas compared to the global average of 35 percent. This has prompted some MENA countries to engage with the issue of climate change on an international level through environmental accords such as the Paris Agreement. Law and policy are also being established on a national level amongst MENA countries, with a focus on the development of renewable energies.
Islam is by far the dominant religion in nearly all of the MENA territories; 91.2% of the population is Muslim. The Middle East–North Africa region comprises 20 countries and territories with an estimated Muslim population of 315 million or about 23% of the world's Muslim population. The term "MENA" is often defined in part in relation to majority-Muslim countries located in the region, although several nations in the region are not Muslim-dominated. Major non-Islamic religions native here are Christianity, Judaism, Yazidism, Druzeism, African folk religions, Berberism and other Arab paganism.
Migrant population, mostly within the Gulf nations, practice mostly the beliefs they follow to, such as Buddhism and Hinduism among South Asian, East Asian and Southeast Asian migrants.
The demographics of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region show a highly populated, culturally diverse region spanning three continents. As of 2018, the population was nearly 578 million. The class, cultural, ethnic, governmental, linguistic and religious make-up of the region is highly variable.Debates on which countries should be included in the Middle East are wide-ranging. The Greater Middle East and North Africa region can include the Caucasus, Cyprus, Afghanistan, and several sub-Saharan African states due to various social, religious and historic ties. The most commonly accepted countries in the MENA region are included on this page.
The MENA region has vast reserves of petroleum and natural gas that make it a vital source of global economic stability. According to the Oil and Gas Journal (January 1, 2009), the MENA region has 60% of the world's oil reserves (810.98 billion barrels (128.936 km3)) and 45% of the world's natural gas reserves ( 2,868,886 billion cubic feet (81,237.8 km3) ).
As of 2023, 7 of the 13 OPEC nations are within the MENA region.
According to Pew Research Center's 2016 "Religion and Education Around the World" study, 40% of the adult population in MENA had completed less than a year of primary school. The fraction was higher for women, of whom half had been to school for less than a year.
In its Global Peace Index 2020, the Institute for Economics & Peace stated that 'the Middle East and North Africa remains the world's least peaceful region, despite improvements for 11 countries'. According to an in-depth multi-part study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published in April 2016, the factors shaping the MENA region are exceedingly complex, and it is difficult to find 'any overall model that fits the different variables involved'. It found that there were 'deep structural causes of violence and instability'. Wars and upheavals are partly 'shaped by the major tribal, ethnic, sectarian, and regional differences', by 'demographic, economic, and security trends', and by 'quality of governance, internal security system, justice systems, and [social] progress.' In some countries, the necessary societal factors for successful democratic change (often championed by some in the region and in the West to address various issues) are absent, and political revolutions may not always lead to more stability, nor solve the underlying problems in a given MENA country. However, it also found that 'the majority of MENA nations have remained relatively stable and continue to make progress'.
See also: List of modern conflicts in the Middle East, List of modern conflicts in North Africa, List of Middle East peace proposals, United States foreign policy in the Middle East, British foreign policy in the Middle East, and Soviet Middle Eastern foreign policy during the Cold War
During and after the decolonisation of Africa and Asia in the 20th century, many different armed conflicts have occurred in the MENA region, including but not limited to the Rif War; the Iraqi–Kurdish conflict; the Arab–Israeli conflict; the Western Sahara conflict; the Lebanese Civil War; the Kurdish–Turkish conflict (1978–present); the Iranian Revolution; the Iran–Iraq War; Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict; the Berber Spring; the Toyota War; the Invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War; the Algerian Civil War; the Iraqi Kurdish Civil War; the rise of terrorism and anti-terrorist actions; the U.S.-led intervention of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent Iraq War. The Arab Spring (2010–2011) led to the Tunisian Revolution, the Egyptian revolution of 2011 and Egyptian Crisis (2011–2014), while also sparking war throughout the region such as the Syrian Civil War, the Libyan Civil War, the Yemeni Civil War and the Iraqi war against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). During the Sudanese Revolution, months of protests and a military coup led to the fall of Omar al-Bashir's regime and the initiation of the 2019–2022 Sudanese transition to democracy and the Sudanese peace process.
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