In this study Professor Chatty examines the ways in which pastoral nomadic communities in the Middle East have been able to negotiate economic and livelihood successes out of a state of ‘neglect’. She briefly describes the ways some nomadic pastoral groups (Bedouin) in Northern Arabia have been able to manipulate government ‘neglect’ into economic successes. She then examines the situation in Oman, where a different state policy was enacted. Determined to provide social benefits to the nomadic pastoral communities of the Central Desert without forcing them to settle, the government of Oman extended basic health, education and social services to these communities. These services, she argues, gave the isolated and remote nomadic pastoral communities in the country a breather, a space in which to catch up with the rest of the rural population. However in spite of this radical policy, it has become clear two decades later, that the nomadic community has been, in effect, neglected in comparison with the rest of the citizens of the country. It is the lack of a meaningful relationship with the oil companies whose concession areas cover their traditional tribal lands, which has highlighted the fundamental disadvantage of a significant stakeholder group. However, today, with international pressure for accountability and transparency among the multinational oil companies, the call has been heard for socially sound investment policy and concern with respecting human rights. This has given these nomadic communities a new voice and leverage in demanding sound social investment policies from the government and the oil companies for themselves and their communities in the deserts of Oman.
Centre for Oriental Studies (OWZ), Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg