The Domain Hotel & Spa & 3BL Associates Launch US$1 Million Sustainability Summer Challenge!

Manama, Bahrain: Award-winning sustainable development strategy consultancy and think-do-tank, 3BL Associates (3BL), launched a ’Sustainability Summer Challenge’ at the Domain Hotel and Spa.


The initiative has included eight summer interns working on developing an ambitious sustainability strategy that will result in US$1 million in cost savings or revenues for the Domain Hotel and Spa.


Under 3BL’s leadership and expertise, the team is working to identify ways to reduce operational costs for the hotel through sustainability, as well as creating shared value opportunities that simultaneously generate new revenue streams for the hotel, while tackling social and environmental issues.


In addition, the cross-disciplinary team of interns, who have been working in residence at the Domain, are also each leading a 3BL think-do-tank project, focusing on issues like sports and development, diabetes, social entrepreneurship, and a region-wide social innovation initiative called ’Reimagine MENA Labs’.


’œWith trends like the sharing economy, millennial customers, and greater interactivity, the hospitality industry needs to keep innovating to remain competitive. The Domain’s unique ’Stay Work Play’ concept embodies this thinking and we are delighted to be hosting this revolutionary and entrepreneurial challenge,’ commented Mr. Tony Connor, Chairman’s representative, the Domain Hotel and Spa.


’œRunning this challenge at the Domain is a fantastic way to spark a conversation around rethinking use of space’”a growing trend in sustainable cities. The interns will also each be leading various inter-connected projects in addition to working on an innovative sustainability strategy for the hotel that adds bottom-line value to the business as well as creating social and environmental impact. We are thrilled to be working in residence at a values-aligned brand like the Domain and I’m really excited to see what the team comes up with!’ commented 3BL cofounder and managing director, Leena al Olaimy.


The interns are: Elham Ali (Crown Prince International Scholarship Program recipient), B.A. in International Relations, Claremont McKenna College, California and Public Health Policy M.A. candidate; Sumana Al Gharbi (Crown Prince International Scholarship Program recipient), studying Chemical Biology at the University of California ­ Berkeley; Sarah Awachi, studying History and International Relations at University of Reading, UK; Narjes Bukannan, B.A. Business Economics, University of Exeter, UK and M.A. candidate for Environment and Development; Waleed Al-Meraj, B.A. in Public Policy with a minor in Economics and Media from the University of Toronto, Canada; Dana Osama, studying Economics at the University of Kent, UK; Mohamed Nedham (Crown Prince International Scholarship Program recipient) studying Medicine at Kings College, UK; and Sophie Tarif, studying Marketing and Design at Lancaster University, UK.


Outcomes of the challenge will be presented to the Domain Hotel and Spa’s executive management and Chairman Faisal Al Matrook at the end of August.



3 steps to solving the Middle Easts biggest challenges

The earliest civilizations in human history were established in a region that is now known as the Middle East. The fertile lands of the region did not only provide conditions for incredible agricultural growth but also the evolution of human possibility, and with it, the birth of sciences and cultures, stories of spiritual hope and laws of human dignity, the first burgeoning cities, houses of wisdom, emerging trade that flowed through the seas and rivers, and professions that were established and have served over thousands of years.


Challenges of the cradle


Once, we may have cradled civilization. Today, our challenges as a region confront our potential to prosper over thousands of years. We spend billions of dollars on arms, yet have the biggest security deficit. We live in one of the most water-stressed regions, with the highest CO2 emissions per capita ’“ threatening both our biodiversity and food security. We are the most food import dependent region in the world.

We are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, food price volatility, natural disasters and climate fluctuations. Long-term trends in rainfall need to be considered in understanding the radicalization of youth in the region. Rising obesity and diabetes rates are juxtaposed with hunger and malnutrition. Our region is one of the unhappiest on Earth. Our education systems teach children what to think rather than how to learn. We have the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. Our innovation output is negligible. Climate change will affect most of the 370 million people in the Arab region and, in our current state, the scale of the impacts are likely to be ’œbeyond the coping range of many communities and countries’. But perhaps the greatest challenge we face is a crisis of values.

To address some of the core issues related to solving these sustainable development challenges, I’m offering three ideas towards a new regional framework:


Systems not silos


In a world of complexity, cross-cutting issues such as education, peace, sustainable cities and health cannot be solved in silo. Without shifting the way in which we approach social problems, individual interventions will not achieve inclusive sustainable development.

Consider for example, the interconnections between climate change, diabetes, transport, education, disabilities, the economy and human rights.

Diabetes and climate change are two urgent challenges in the 21st century.Changing food habits due to behavioural, climate and economic factors have meant that MENA is one of the world regions where the double burden of malnutrition “ where both obesity/NCDs and under-nutrition coexist “ is the most pronounced. According to the International Diabetes Federation, four Middle Eastern countries make up the top 10 in global diabetes prevalence per capita (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain), and, according to the World Bank, these countries also make the top 10 in regards to CO2 emissions per capita. The socio-economic impact of diabetes alone in such countries threatens to undermine wider development and the benefits of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The International Diabetes Federation also forecasts that spending on diabetes care in MENA is set to rise from $16.8 billion in 2014 to $24.7 billion in 2035. Increasing obesity prevalence in a population increases GHG emissions from food production and car travel. People with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes are more vulnerable to the adverse health impacts of climate change. At the same time, diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness and visual disability in the Middle East, and diabetic neuropathy a leading cause of amputations.

Women with disabilities continue to face discrimination daily all over the world, and in the MENA region poor rule of law and governance, traditional and cultural practices and prejudice, and poverty are all factors impeding the successful fulfilment of the human rights of this most vulnerable section of society. There is also an opportunity loss from not including this important segment of the population in the labour market. As Education for Sustainable Development is yet to be integrated in many national curriculums across the region, citizens grow up unaware of these issues.

In the current Middle East framework, typically a Ministry of Health, a Ministry of Transport, a Ministry of Commerce, a Ministry of Labour, a Ministry of Social Development, a Ministry of Education and a Ministry of the Environment could all be trying to solve these connected issues largely in silo, or at most bilaterally, and without significant involvement of the private sector and civil society across the board. These issues require instead an interconnected and intergenerational vision and strategy that is sustainable and regenerative. This means looking beyond the typical 2020 and 2030 national strategies and striving for system solutions that can serve and be relevant for citizens in hundreds and thousands of years; not only one or two generations.


From non-violent resistance to non-violent resilience


During periods of social upheaval a lot of energy is invested in violent and non-violent forms of activism. Comparatively less energy and thought is given to the necessary development that must take place thereafter and preferably in tandem. Across civil society, public and private sectors, there appears to be a lack of clarity and cohesive strategy to address social and development issues. All the while interconnected issues such as education, climate, peace and health are not being addressed systematically. These issues are likely to be exacerbated by a constant state of flux, and so is the economic climate, which leads to further joblessness, frustration and social fragmentation.

The feelings of frustration and marginalization begin to define the identity of so many young people leaving them with no accessible and viable alternative to channel their energies into creating constructive rather than destructive change.

Socially and politically marginalized youth across the region have demonstrated tremendous energy, commitment, tenacity, organizational skills, communication, innovative thinking and superior boot-strapping skills: making the most of the limited resources available. All of these skills and competencies are valuable in any entrepreneurial venture, but especially towards social entrepreneurship frameworks. There is an unsurpassable opportunity to harness those skills into a new kind of activism that focuses on hope, optimism and renewal.

The nature of resistance is to oppose, to refuse, to stop, to confront and to impede, which may have a place in certain contexts. However, the sustainable development challenges we face as a region demands non-violent resilience, rather than non-violent resistance. In the natural world, resiliency requires diversity and inclusion of all parts of a system to not only make it through a storm or disturbance but also to use it as a base to build and create new solutions.

Resilience requires the cultivation of decentralized cooperative relationships and the integration of strategies that promote development and growth simultaneously, rather than one or the other. To survive and thrive in a changed context requires reorganization, and resiliency requires us to respond quickly and create new localized frameworks to solve the sustainable development challenges we face, rather than operating on frameworks that were created for a different time and place.


PPP: public-planet partnership


Where what we value as a society also needs to be what is of true value to the Earth. We must reconcile with nature and from there with ourselves. Our institutions, cities and frameworks need to be designed in a way that creates ecosystem services that contribute to Earth’s well-being.

The region’s policies are based on various intergovernmental political and economic unions, but these divisions create barriers particularly when it comes to sustainable development issues. This requires an (un)foreign policy where we also cooperate based on similar and connecting bio-regions.

It is also not enough to just look at conserving biodiversity; we must also look at nature as a true partner, just as we would a public-private sector partnership. The natural world is a potential partner that has been dealing with complex system challenges and finding solutions for billions of years. One such example is that agricultural biotechnologies used in the Middle East can’t adapt and work fast enough to meet the pressures of feeding 520 million people by 2030 and the impacts of climate change. Instead, we must also consider fungi and microbial communities that have found ways to be resilient in changing conditions over millions of years and learn from them in our food solutions.

In our new regional frameworks, we must ask how we can form mutualistic and symbiotic relationships with the natural world, which has proven to have more far more skilled environmental engineers, architects, green chemists and system designers than humans.

In this way, it is returning to the essence of that cradle of civilization, where our frameworks, progress and development as a human society were intrinsically tied to the thriving nature around us and within us.


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Climate Change Impacts in GCC

The GCC countries face multitude of climate change challenges including desertification, biodiversity loss, water scarcity and sea level rise. The region is characterized by high temperature, high humidity and arid lands resulting in seriously degraded soil and land damage in addition to salt intrusion in the aquifers affecting the small scale agricultural lands thus enhancing the food security threat in the region. All of the above geographical threats have therefore increased and activated the participation of GCC states in global negotiations recently as evidence are uncovered and impacts being felt across the region. If a couple of days of rain can flood parts of cities in GCC, and bring life to a standstill, the prospect of large scale climate change is a sobering thought, and a thought that needs to be translated into action.


Rise in Sea Level


One of the main climate change impacts is sea level rise on coastal areas of all Arabian Gulf states. This includes many of the large and small islands in the Gulf region which are highly vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise. An example is the low-lying geology of Bahrain’s islands, which coupled with high land reclamation and extensive industrial, commercial, and residential activity in coastal zones, highlight the island’s acute vulnerability to climate change induced sea level rise.

The total land area that would be inundated under the various climate change scenarios was found to be substantial by the Bahrain Supreme Council for the Environment. Even the low sea level rise scenario will result in an inundation of about five per cent (36 km2) of the total land area of Bahrain by 2100. This level increases to about 11 per cent of total land area (69 km2) in the worst case scenario.

Inundation will unevenly affect Bahrain’s vulnerable infrastructure in the five main islands and would adversely affect cities, roads, agricultural areas, as well as beaches and salt marshes. Even in other cities, if reinforcement measures are not implemented on Dubai’s coastline for example, it would be damaged and altered from rising sea levels caused by climate change.


Water Availability


Continued use of non-renewable water is major factor in depleting groundwater reserves in GCC nations and puts Gulf countries at severe risk of climate impacts. In Saudi Arabia, water supply is drawn from four sources: groundwater from deep fossil aquifers, desalinated water, surface water and reclaimed wastewater. Extracting water from deep aquifers amounts to mining the resource, as supplies are non-renewable and have been severely depleted as a result of policies which for the past three decades have subsidized not only agricultural commodities such as wheat, but also the means to produce them. It is not surprising therefore that agriculture accounts for roughly 85% of water use in Saudi Arabia.

The depletion of Bahrain’s groundwater through urbanization has led to the loss of freshwater springs, which the country was once famous for, as well as its fertile lands. Same is the case with Qatar which heavily relies on energy-intensive desalination plants for its freshwater, further driving up its electricity demand. A vast majority of desalination plants in GCC are energy-intensive and installed at a huge cost to the environment.


Food Security


The Middle East is especially vulnerable to tensions brought on by spike in food prices. This is a region where putting new land into production is not that easy because of the nature of the terrain and water shortage. In Saudi Arabia, only about 2 percent of the country’s enormous land mass is arable, even with intensive irrigation and modern farming technology. Facing a probable 77 percent growth in its population by 2050, Saudi Arabia is grappling with the realization that its barren soil and dwindling water supply will be insufficient to feed all those people (Middle East Institute 2010)

In Bahrain there are over 6,000 people employed in the fishing industry. Deterioration of coral reef habitats will negatively affect associated fauna and fish stocks, and eventually threaten the viability of Bahrain’s fishing industry. The loss of agricultural land due to a one metre rise in sea level is likely to be over 11 per cent of the total arable land in the country.




The potential loss of terrestrial and marine biodiversity under climate change is a major concern across the region. The Arabian Peninsula is a meeting point between the Indo-Asian and the Afro-European regions and enjoys a rich biodiversity in a hyper arid environment. For the terrestrial environment, the Arabian Peninsula has dozens of mammal species, hundreds of bird species, and scores of amphibian and reptile species.

For the marine environment, the Arabian Gulf’s relative shallowness supports a number of highly productive coastal habitats, including intertidal mudflats, seagrasses, algal beds, mangroves, and coral reefs, together with a wide variety of fish species, some of which are endangered. With climate change, these species, such as migratory birds and dugongs would be adversely affected.

Protect Our Future: Diabetes and Climate Change

Writing from the halls of the UN Climate Change COP19 Summit in Warsaw, where I’m tracking negotiations, I’m also marking World Diabetes Day (WDD), which falls on 14 November and represents the intersection of two urgent and interconnected challenges.

Diabetes is one of the major health and development challenges of the 21st century. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), there are currently 371 million people living with diabetes and another 280 million are at high risk of developing the disease. Half a billion people are expected to be living with diabetes by 2030.

Diabetes causes 5 million deaths and costs over 470 billion US Dollars in global healthcare expenditure every year, whilst climate change is on an even greater trajectory in regards to its devastating environmental, economic and human impacts.

Each year, WDD revolves around a diabetes-related theme and this year’s WDD slogan is Protect Our Future; a slogan that also resonates with the youth constituency at the UN climate talks who are pushing governments to recognize the thus far neglected rights and voices of future generations who will face the full injustices of climate change if the necessary action required by the science isn’t taken.

On 14 November, which also happens to be Youth and Future Generations Day at the climate negotiations, it’s important to highlight these two generation defining issues.


How are diabetes and climate change interconnected?



(Source: International Diabetes Federation)


Like many socio-economic issues, health and climate change are deeply interconnected and both its challenges and solutions cannot be separated. Climate change is the largest threat to human health and exacerbates existing health risks including increased morbidity and mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes.

Diabetes and climate change are directly and indirectly interconnected, as the IDF explains, some of these interconnections include:


Extreme climate events: As we have seen with Typhoon Haiyans path of destruction through the Philippines this past week, the increase of extreme climactic events will cause damage to healthcare infrastructure and threaten the delivery of care for vulnerable people with diabetes.


An overheating world: People with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes are more vulnerable to the adverse health impacts of climate change. In hotter temperatures, dehydration and heatstroke increases morbidity and mortality in people with diabetes. People with diabetes are predisposed to cardiovascular events during heat waves and higher mortality from heart attack on days of high air pollution.


Food insecurity and malnutrition: Climate change is exacerbating food insecurity. Climate change threatens agricultural production and the food supply through water scarcity, and drought the destruction of crops by climactic extremes. Both over-nutrition and under-nutrition increase an individuals risk of developing type 2 diabetes and related NCDs.


Obesity and greenhouse gas emissions: The rising burden of type 2 diabetes and its principal driver, obesity, are likely contributing to climate change. Increasing obesity prevalence in a population increases GHG emissions from food production and car travel. It has been estimated that a population in which 40% of people are obese requires 19% more food energy than a population in which there is a normal BMI distribution.


Urbanisation: Fossil-fuel based transport adversely impacts on health and the environment. The IPCC states that 23% of global GHGs are from transport with road traffic constituting 75% of these emissions. The resulting physical inactivity from sedentary lifestyles is one of the four leading NCD risk factors and accounts for nearly a third of type 2 diabetes prevalence.


Global population: The world’s population is predicted to grow to nine billion by 2050, and such major population growth using our current models increases production, industrialisation, energy consumption and GHG emissions, all of which are driving type 2 diabetes and climate change.



A global challenge



Small island developing states at high risk of climate extremes are disproportionately affected by diabetes.

In regards to diabetes prevalence per capita, the highest-ranking countries are Micronesia, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu. Including Vanuatu, all these countries are also members of The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) within the UN Climate talks. AOSIS is a coalition of small islands and low-lying coastal countries that are the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of global climate change, and where some of its members face the prospect of extinction.

Two thirds of diabetes is found in low and middle income countries. These countries are already burdened by climate impacts and are the countries that can least afford to deal with the increased pressure on health systems, the added mortality and expenditure of diabetes, as well as it’s related impacts such as blindness and amputations due to diabetic retinopathy and neuropathy.

However that is not to say that climate change and diabetes poses a problem just for low-income countries, but expands across the spectrum. Relatively oil and gas rich countries of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain also make up the top 10 in diabetes prevalence per capita, whilst according to the World Bank, these countries also make the top 10 in regards to carbon dioxide emissions per capita. The socio-economic impact of diabetes alone in such countries threatens to undermine wider development and the benefits of achieving of the Millennium Development Goals.


Breaking down the silos


Both of these issues need an interconnected and intergenerational vision that is sustainable and regenerative; this means looking beyond the typical 20-50 year national strategies, and striving for system solutions that can serve and be relevant for citizens in hundreds of years time; not just one generation.

Since social issues such as climate change and diabetes are cross-cutting by nature, one needs multiple stakeholders to effectively address the problem. Neither climate change or health policies actions be addressed in silo as they are largely being done on a local and global scale.

If there is one global constant, it is that the world is in flux. A systems approach is also needed to address climate change, diabetes and its interconnected issues. (Consider the link between climate change, diabetes, energy, food security, and education reform for instance). This collective impact approach is essential within this context to connect and provide links between the community, the private sector, international organisations, NGOs, government institutions, media and academia around solving social, economic and environmental issues.

On Future Generations Day at the UN climate talks, we are reminded that young people are often the ones who serve best as global key stone connectors, and the One Young World Community is a testament of this.