ECC Platform Library


Climate and Fragility Risks in the Lake Chad Region

Type of conflict main
Intensity 4
Western Africa
Time 1970 ‐ ongoing
Countries Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon
Resources Fish, Biodiversity, Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Conflict Summary The people of Lake Chad are caught in a conflict trap. Clashes between state security forces and armed opposition groups have become entangled with local...
Climate and Fragility Risks in the Lake Chad Region
The people of Lake Chad are caught in a conflict trap. Clashes between state security forces and armed opposition groups have become entangled with local tensions over fishing and grazing rights. Meanwhile, climatic changes may bring new challenges for regional cooperation, which underpins human security and ultimately, a viable political solution to the crisis in the Lake Chad region.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

Climate change could increase the likelihood of droughts and floods. Variability could bring future challenges to local livelihoods. Meanwhile anticipations of future water scarcity in the riparian countries might incite further unilateral hydro infrastructure development projects which may alter water levels in Lake Chad. Variability in the water levels of Lake Chad has further opened up new resources on islands emerging in ambiguous border regions where territory between riparian states is ill defined.

Intermediary Mechanisms

Pressures on available resources around Lake Chad have led to the displacement of many and may exacerbate competition between people and communities. The inability of governments to resolve these problems erodes the legitimacy of public authorities, a gap which is filled to some extent by extremist groups.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

These pressures add to existing economic challenges that facilitate recruitment by armed opposition groups. Local communities, who have lost access to land and water, have grievances against state forces or other community members. With a lack of access to political channels and effective conflict resolution mechanisms, conflicts have often played out along gender, religious, ethnic lines among communities. Violence and the disruption of habitual coping mechanisms undermine the ability of local communities to withstand the effects of climate change, which perpetuates the vicious cycle of climate vulnerability and fragility. Moreover, variability in water levels and the ambiguous status of emerging islands has incited territorial disputes between riparian states on several occasions.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversChanging climate alters natural boundaries.More frequent/intense extreme weather events lead to decreased water availability.More frequent/intense extreme weather events reduce available land.More frequent/intense extreme weather events reduce available natural resources.Infrastructure development changes the allocation of water.Infrastructure development reduces available natural resources.Reduced availability of water incites migration.Water scarcity undermines water-dependent livelihoods.Land scarcity undermines the livelihoods of agricultural producers.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources reduces available resources and ecosystem services.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources undermines resource-dependent livelihoods.Change in natural boundaries leads to border dispute.Migration leads to conflicts between migrants and residents.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to tensions between states.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to distributive conflicts between societal groups.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources provokes discontent with the state.Livelihood insecurity fuels grievances between groups.Livelihood insecurity leads to growing discontent with the state.Livelihood insecurity augments the risk of crime, violence, and extremism.Border dispute leads to inter-state tensions.A slow change in climatic conditions, particularly temperature and precipitation.Gradual Change in Temperature and/or PrecipitationA change in natural boundaries, such as rivers that separate different countries.Altered Natural BoundariesAn increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.More Frequent / Intense Extreme Weather EventsAn increase in the scarcity of clean water and/or an increased variability in water supply.Increased Water ScarcityReduced availability of/ access to land.Increased Land ScarcityGrowing scarcity of essential natural resources.Natural Resource ScarcityConstruction of major infrastructure, such as dams, canals or roads.Infrastructure Development(In)voluntary long and short-term movements of people within or across state boundaries.Displacements / MigrationA threat or destruction of livelihoods dependent on the availability of environmental resources / goods.Livelihood InsecurityReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural ResourcesDispute over the (re)definition of administrative boundariesBorder DisputeNon-violent or violent tensions and conflicts between different societal groups.Grievances between Societal GroupsTensions between states that may but need not escalate into overt violent conflict.Interstate TensionsChallenge to the state's legitimacy, ranging from peaceful protest to violent attempts at overthrowing the government.Anti-State GrievancesThe uptake of activities, such as joining extremist groups or engaging in illicit and violent activities, which increase the overall fragility of a region.Crime / Violence / Extremism
Context Factors
Conflict History

The people living around Lake Chad are currently suffering from an intertwined humanitarian and security crisis. Clashes between military forces and armed opposition groups (most notoriously Boko Haram), attacks on civilians, and heavy handed counter-insurgency measures are worsening displacement, food insecurity and eroding of trust in political authorities. Around two and a half million people have fled their homes while five million are food insecure and in critical need of food aid. Tens of millions of people lack adequate services and almost eleven million rely on humanitarian assistance.

Driving factors
The recent growth of Boko Haram is linked to various political, social, economic and ecological developments in Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria. Political crises and embezzlement scandals have eroded the legitimacy of governments and institutions and made people more receptive to political promises made by jihadist groups (see Kazeem, 2015). Regional inequalities, in particular between oil-producing and other regions, shape political grievances on which the insurgents capitalise (Watts, 2017). Meanwhile, poverty and lack of adequate services create opportunities for recruiting destitute farmers and herders into armed opposition groups (Onuoha, 2014). Increasing violence against civilians is an incentive for some people to seek the protection from armed militias. In some cases, indiscriminate violence by state security forces could be responsible for the rising support for armed opposition groups (Malagardis, 2014) (see case study on Boko Haram insurgency).

Implications for local communities and inter-community relations
Military responses to the crisis have often undermined local livelihoods, which rely on access to natural resources such as water and land for grazing and farming. By imposing restrictions on trade and mobility around Lake Chad, security forces have impaired local people’s access and control over vital resources, adding to already existing economic pressures in conflict areas (Vivekananda et al., 2019). Resulting disruptions to fisheries, small scale agriculture, pastoralism, and trade intensified competition for local resources and put severe strains on social relations among communities, raising at times the risk of violent conflict between communities (see case study on local conflicts around Lake Chad). Vulnerable groups, including people displaced by conflict and environmental pressures, are most severely affected by these developments.

Challenges to regional cooperation
Water availability and distribution are critical issues underpinning human security and national economic interests in the Lake Chad basin. Changes brought by unilateral development of water infrastructure and irrigation systems have at times led to tensions between riparian states; as have fluctuations in Lake Chad and the emergence of islands with undefined legal status (see case study on inter-state conflict and cooperation). Even though political attention at the moment is on resolving the Boko Haram crisis, underlying tensions over water risk resurfacing in the wake of large-scale water development projects and climate change.

Possible effects of climate change
Pressures brought by climate change could compound the severity of all three conflict dynamics (local, inter-state and related to armed opposition groups). Irregularity in rainfall and erratic weather could make policy and land use planning more difficult and negotiations between competing land users could break down. More people displaced by extreme climatic events are also likely to seek refuge near Lake Chad (Magrin, 2016). In the past this has led to tensions over entitlements to use local resources. At the same time, environmental changes, may further deprive communities of their livelihoods and essential resources, and potentially lead the latter to join radicalised groups; although this link is more tenuous (Connor, 2017, Onuoha, 2014; Malagardis, 2014).

The strong enforcement of borders and restriction of pastoralist mobility and trade as well as small scale agriculture around the lake undermine the resilience of agro-pastoral and subsistence agriculture systems. This creates additional challenges for coping with the adverse effects of climate variability and change (Vivekananda et al., 2019).

Moreover, tensions between riparian states could escalate in the wake of future shifts in water supply, due to climate change and/or large-scale infrastructure and irrigation projects. Additionally, anticipation of future water scarcity may incite states to pursue further unilateral (and potentially conflict-prone) water infrastructure projects (see case study on inter-state conflict and cooperation).

Resolution Efforts

Over-militarised counter-insurgency measures
Until now, the main strategy employed by Lake Chad governments in relation to the insurgency has been a military crackdown and attempts to thwart insurgents from gaining and strengthening a foothold in the Lake Chad Basin. The militaries of the riparian states have employed the Multinational Joint Taskforce (MNJTF) under the auspices of the Lake Chad Basin Commission.

Although military actions appear to address the insurgency head on, they may fail to tackle the root causes of conflict in Lake Chad and its differentiated political, social, economic and environmental dynamics. In some cases, military actions have lacked foresight and undermined local livelihoods and abilities to cope with climate change (see conflict history).

A holistic approach
Security in the region is likely to rely on a more holistic approach beyond achieving a military victory against armed opposition groups and may involve a political settlement or treaty between conflicting parties (Vivekananda et al, 2019). This implies identifying synergies between environmental, social, and economic policies to achieve long term security, foster sturdy platforms for cooperation  and avoid future conflicts. Similarly, solutions on the ground will rely on interstate cooperation beyond military intervention. Foreign Policy may provide support to allow parties to compromise on the key issues.

The international community along with the riparian governments have hosted various meetings to address climate and fragility risks in the Lake Chad region: among them were the 2017 Oslo Humanitarian Conference; the Consultative Group on Prevention and Stabilization in the Lake Chad Region. In 2018 the Abuja Conference to Save Lake Chad; the Lake Chad Governors’ Forum in Maiduguri, May 2018 the High-Level Conference on the Lake Chad Region.

The Regional Strategy for Stabilisation, Recovery and Resilience sought to consult the Lake Chad Basin Commission, African Union Commission (AUC), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Held in August 2018, it aimed to address underdevelopment, poverty, poor governance and climate change.

Development and social cohesion
On the ground, social cohesion is essential for building solidarity between social groups and rebuilding trust in institutions. This could include access to justice and securing access rights to land and broadening people’s access to basic services such as education, health, water, sanitation and energy (ibid; also see case study on local conflicts around Lake Chad). Local institutions in the region need support to strengthen policy, regulatory and oversight capacities, to tackle corruption, to provide quality social service delivery planning and to invest in the expansion of governance at local levels. An mayor challenge will also be to end the prolonged precarity of potential combatants and ex-combatants (Vivekananda et al, 2019).

Livelihoods on the shores of Lake Chad (pastoralism, fishing, subsistence agriculture) all require mobility to adapt and improve resilience to climate change and variations in the lake’s size as well as economic shocks to local markets and trade networks. This requires a critical reconsideration of current military measures that restrict mobility (see case study on Boko Haram insurgency).

Climate Change adaptation
Strengthening local knowledge about potential changes could help communities prepare and address climatic variability. Improving awareness and readiness, e.g. through the dissemination of better climate and hydrological information, may help farmers, pastoralists and fisher folk adapt to economic and ecological shocks, while facilitating forward-looking policies, which engage groups who have previously been marginalised.

Local practices could aid both climate change adaptation and stability in the region. For instance, harvesting Typha, known locally as bulrush may improve local livelihood security. Similarly, Spirulina, a nutritious alga, widespread in Lake Chad, is collected and eaten by the local population. Promoting its production could provide an income, especially for women, who were the main beneficiaries of past projects centred on its promotion (Vivekananda et al, 2019).

Regional cooperation through the LCBC
Efforts on the ground need to be supported by consistent measures at the basin level. Cooperation between countries around Lake Chad is organised and performed within the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC). With the support of a number of international organisations and partners, the LCBC aims to foster regional integration and cooperation, to manage transboundary resources in a sustainable and equitable way and to promote regional security (Maman, 2018). More specifically, it aims to establish water sharing guidelines between the riparian states and looks at the planning of water infrastructure projects, which may have implications for shared resources.

Yet, several factors are still hindering the work of the LCBC: lack of capacities and coordination, the threat of Boko Haram in the region, as well as disputes between member states. Meanwhile, basin wide cooperation is challenged by power imbalances between countries. The riparian countries are far from equal shareholders in the context of the commission which can undermine trust that solutions will always yield mutual and equitable benefits (see case study on inter-state conflict and cooperation).


Intensities & Influences
conflict intensity scale
International / Geopolitical Intensity
Human Suffering

Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Manifest Crisis
Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation National
Mass Displacement More than 100.000 or more than 10% of the country's population are displaced within the country.
Cross Border Mass Displacement Best estimate that more than 100.000 or more than 10% of country population are displaced across borders.
Destination Countries Africa
Fish, Biodiversity, Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Resolution Success
Reduction in Violence There was no reduction in violence.
Resolve of displacement problems Displacement continues to cause discontent and/or other problems.
Reduction in geographical scope There has been no reduction in geographical scope.
Increased capacity to address grievance in the future There is no increased capacity to address grievances in the future.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been mostly ignored.
Causal Attribution of Decrease in Conflict Intensity There has been no reduction in intensity
General opencollapse
Country Data in Comparison
Water scarcity Country Interval Year Nigeria 4.72659 1979 Niger 4.42912 1979 Chad 3.94712 1979 Cameroon 2.73338 1979
Fault Lines Defining Conflict Parties
Purely Environmental | Cultural   ♦   Occupational   ♦   Economic   ♦   Urban / Rural   ♦   National / International conflict   ♦   Sub-national political

Participation Conflict Party     Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Boko Haram
Functional GroupNon-State Violent Actor
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Multinational Joint Task Force (MNTJF)
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal International
Lake Chad Basin Commission
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal International
local communities
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Government of Chad
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Federal Republic of Nigeria Government
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Republic of Cameroon Government
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Republic of Niger Government
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
African Union
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal International
United Nation Development Programme (UNDP)
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
2 Peacekeeping Although military action is currently the main means to addressing the insurgency, it may fail to tackle the root causes of conflict in Lake Chad and its various political, social, economic and environmental dynamics. In some cases, military actions have lacked foresight and undermined local livelihoods and abilities to cope with climate change. A critical review of the tactics used to combat armed opposition groups is necessary.
1 Disarmament, demobilisation & reintegration Build social cohesion within and among communities. This can be done by providing access to mechanisms for justice and dialogue among people in IDP/refugee camps and host communities, between former fighters and other communities and across different generations. Securing peoples’ right to land can directly contribute to peacebuilding and enhanced social cohesion.
1 Dialogue There have been some suggestions to open dialogue between insurgents and governments but they have been overshadowed by an increased military effort.
2 Cooperation Cooperation between countries around Lake Chad is organised and performed within the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC). With the support of a number of international organisations and partners, the LCBC aims to foster regional integration and cooperation, to manage transboundary resources in a sustainable and equitable way and to promote regional security.
1 Mediation & arbitration Disputes amongst the co-riparian states of the Lake Chad are settled with the support of international bodies, such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The development of the Lake Chad Water Charter (LCWC) in 2012 sought to define water management and wetland management objectives based on shared concerns. It also sought to define responsibilities to national and regional authorities and create monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms, needed to make agreements enforceable. IUCN is involved, together with the Global Environment fund, the Dutch, British and Nigerian government and the LCBC in designing legal frameworks for water allocation.
1 Social inclusion & empowerment Livelihood support needs to be holistic and address all sections of society in order to restore social cohesion and local governance. Interventions must aim to transform underlying social exclusion, inequalities, marginalisation and power dynamics. Moreover, marginalised communities, as well as marginalised people within communities must be involved in dialogues and conflict mediation if those are to successfully address the root causes of resource related conflicts. Social cohesion is essential for building solidarity between social groups and rebuilding trust in institutions. This could include access to justice and securing access rights to land and other resources.
1 Promoting peaceful relations Critically review and adapt the tactics used to combat armed opposition groups. Whereas governments in the region need to end the instability in the interest of communities, the means for doing so need to be compatible with the goal of sustainable livelihoods for, and better relations between communities in the region as well as the state legitimacy that will grow from enabling these.
1 Improving state capacity & legitimacy In order for local institutions to foster cooperation and conflict mitigation, additional governance and institutional investment may be needed. Local institutions in the region need support to strengthen policy, regulatory and oversight capacities, to tackle corruption, to provide quality social service delivery planning and to invest in the expansion of governance at local levels.
1 Improving infrastructure & services Broadening people’s access to basic services such as education, health, water, sanitation and energy is critical not just to support communities in building their resilience to crises, but also to rebuild fractured relations between the state and citizens.
1 Promoting alternative livelihoods Local practices could aid both climate change adaptation and stability in the region. For instance, harvesting Typha, known locally as bulrush may improve local livelihood security. Similarly, Spirulina, a nutritious alga, widespread in Lake Chad, is collected and eaten by the local population. Promoting its production could provide an income, especially for women, who were the main beneficiaries of past projects centred on its promotion.
0 Improving actionable information Improving the information available to policymakers and other stakeholders is another important focus area. Not only are better climate and hydrological data necessary to inform water regulations and climate adaptation in the Lake Chad region, but also the effects of large scale water infrastructure projects on ecosystems, livelihoods, economic opportunities, and ultimately inter-state relations need to be better understood and taken into consideration.
0 Coping with uncertainty Supporting communities to adapt to climate change and improve natural resource management could build community resilience. The growing risks of climate change can further entrench cycles of violence and hinder prospects of stability. Similarly, efforts to support climate change adaptation, enhance preparations to climate shocks
1 Environmental restoration & protection Support communities to adapt to climate change and improve natural resource management. The growing risks of climate change can further entrench cycles of violence and hinder prospects of stability. Similarly, efforts to support climate change adaptation, enhance resilience to climate shocks
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Character of the contested good Club Good: Can be owned and is not depleted from use.
Structure of decision-making power / interdependence Asymmetric: The power to affect the environmental resource is unequal.
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse


Adaptation & Resilience

All countries will need to adapt to some of the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change that are already unavoidable. Food security, livelihoods, water resource availability and public health are some affected areas. People living in poverty are more vulnerable, having a lower capacity to adapt. Thus, it is essential to promote resilience building. The adaptation and resilience aspects need to be mainstreamed into planning by policy makers and the private sector as well as integrated into development strategies.

Biodiversity & Livelihoods

Nature protection is most sustainable if it essentially contributes to the long-term stability of human needs. Today many regions around the world are confronted with increasing destruction of the natural foundations of life. The consequences of wide-ranging resource destruction are no longer regionally limited, but rather represent a global threat. Those affected are mainly rural populations, who find the sources of their income and the foundations of their way of life swept away. The depletion and destruction of natural resources goes hand in hand with decreasing agricultural yields and increasing poverty, which in turn forces the affected populations to deplete the remaining resources.

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Capacity Building

On the one hand, conflicts are caused by structural factors, such as economic and social inequality or environmental destruction. On the other hand, conflicts are fuelled by a lack of democratic structures, deficient mechanisms of non-violent conflict settlement, inadequate rule of law, the destruction of social and cultural identity and the disregard of human rights. Against this backdrop, development policies have been dedicated to a broad concept of security, which comprises political, economic, ecological and social stability. As a consequence, development cooperation agencies and actors have developed a broad spectrum of approaches for conflict prevention and transformation as well as for sustainable use of natural resources.

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Civil Society

Civil society is the first victim of environmental pollution, under-development and conflicts. Economically disadvantaged and politically marginalized population groups are particularly affected by violent conflicts as well as increasing resource degradation. Simultaneously, civil society is a fundamental pillar for implementing sustainable development. It contributes in many ways to strengthening conflict prevention and plays a significant role in the peaceful and democratic development of states. It must be supported to strengthen civil rights, adherence to human rights in general and democratic participation.

Climate Change

Climate change resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases represents one of the vital challenges for international environmental policy. Flooding, droughts, shifting of climate zones and increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events will have serious economic and social consequences for entire regions. The climate problem is also directly linked to the question of future energy generation.

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Climate Diplomacy

To address the challenges posed by climate change, a new profile of climate diplomacy is evolving. This utilises a full range of policies, including development cooperation, conflict prevention efforts, and humanitarian assistance, in addition to more traditional measures of climate change adaptation and mitigation. Moving from a risk analysis of climate-related threats to well-timed preventive action requires a greater commitment to integrating climate change concerns into development, foreign, and security policies. Examples include strengthening diplomatic networks, building new alliances with partners, and raising awareness – not only of potentially negative climate change impacts, but also of opportunities to embark on a sustainable transformation of our societies.

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Climate action entails an array of economic, social, political and environmental co-benefits. It provides an opportunity for economic growth and new jobs. Many investments can take into account climate considerations without becoming more costly. Further important co-benefits include: improved energy security, less local air and water pollution, health benefits as well as ecosystem and biodiversity protection.

Conflict Transformation

In order to overcome the structural causes of violent conflicts and thus bring about an improvement in the framework conditions for peaceful and fair development, it is essential to have long term and broadly planned peace development and peace advancement. Various governmental and non-governmental, national and international actors and groups are involved in these processes.

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Climate change and development are inextricably linked. Climate change endangers the development agenda and has the potential to reverse development goals. Furthermore, successful mitigation of climate change heavily depends on development choices around the world. Therefore, development strategies need to be climate-compatible to provide long-term success, and there are viable policy options that support this compatibility. Many mitigation and adaptation activities can present development opportunities to developing countries and avoid the lock-in to environmentally damaging technologies.

Early Warning & Risk Analysis

The reasons for the development and escalation of conflicts and the incidence of risks are multifaceted and complex. Simultaneously, the assessment of the specific causes in the form of risk and conflict analyses can contribute to a better understanding of these processes and make it possible to provide warning of negative developments, or ideally help prevent them. In the context of natural resource use, risks and conflicts have gained increasing attention in the past years. The debate on possible future water wars is merely one example.

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The well-being of individuals, communities and nations depends on the availability of energy resources. The gap between energy supply and demand appears to be growing, making the world vulnerable to serious economic shocks. At the same time, the burning of fossil fuels causing climate change is one of the vital challenges of international environmental policy. So far, only rudimentary approaches exist for shaping climate and energy security in a sustainable way. The components of a strategy that can contribute to reducing vulnerabilities related to climate change and energy policy include a greater role for renewable energies, the improvement of energy efficiency and a stronger decentralisation of energy supply.

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Environment & Migration

The economic, social and environmental consequences of climate change aggravate the breakdown of eco-system-dependent livelihoods and are likely to become dominant drivers of long-term migration. Natural disasters already cause massive shorter-term displacement and the number of temporarily displaced people is likely to further increase with climate change. For vulnerable populations in vulnerable regions, such as the Sahel zone or the Ganges delta, migration often becomes the sole survival strategy. In order to address climate-related displacement and migration successfully, knowledge of effective adaptation and an improved understanding of how environmental change affects human mobility is essential. 

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Climate finance, from all sources, plays a key role in supporting and enabling adaptation and mitigation action as well as climate and energy innovation. The Paris Agreement ensured that the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility are at the core of climate finance architecture as entities entrusted with the operation of the Financial Mechanism of the UNFCCC. Increasing climate finance from all relevant public and private sources is crucial. Furthermore, much needs to be done to redirect finance flows to sustainable paths, e.g. reducing fossil fuel subsidies, introducing maritime and air transportation taxes. The conditions for green investment in developing countries should also be improved.


Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Competition for forest resources triggers, exacerbates, or finances numerous crises and conflicts in tropical developing countries. Illegal logging and timber trade foster instability and sometimes violent conflict by strengthening illegal and armed groups, increasing corruption and exacerbating use and claim conflicts among local communities, the state and the business sector. Forests are a vital resource to poor people but they can also become areas of conflict. Sustainable management of forest resources is therefore key to preventing violent conflict over and within forests.

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Gender plays an important role as a category of conflict for many reasons. The interlinkages between gender, environment and conflicts are complex and much research is still needed. Existing insights suggest that conflicts may worsen gender inequalities that existed before the outbreak of violence. The unequal distribution of land property rights in many parts of the world serves as an example. Moreover, women (and children) are among those most affected by both violent conflict and natural disasters. At the same time, women carry much of the burden of trying to implement rehabilitation measures after crisis events.

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Land & Food

Increasing water scarcity, desertification and crop failures due to extreme weather events are becoming more and more of a threat to global food production. While the world’s population continues to grow rapidly, food production is unable to keep pace. Due to the global food crisis in 2008, the number of hungry people reached the symbolic one billion threshold for the first time – corresponding to about 16 percent of world population. Food insecurity may be a consequence or cause of conflicts. Violent conflicts often lead to the destruction of agricultural infrastructure and means of production, as well as to the displacement of local communities.

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Minerals & Mining

In the past, the discovery and tapping of valuable or strategic resources like valuable minerals, oil and natural gas, particularly in developing and emerging countries, has often led to large scale environmental contamination and negative development. The "resource curse" of some countries shows that the wealth from resource yields is frequently unfairly distributed; instead of serving development it advanced the formation of corrupt elites and in some cases even led to conflicts and civil wars. Measures in various sectors and at all levels are important in order to use the potential of these natural resources in a manner that is sustainable and prevents conflicts.

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Private Sector

The spread of violent conflict not only affects people but also companies located in such regions. Destruction of investments and infrastructure, collapse of markets and trade partnerships, flight and expulsion of employees are phenomena of conflicts and environment-induced crises that directly affect companies in unstable regions. Almost all branches of the economy thus have a clear interest in a stable and peaceful environment for their activities. Conversely, the business sector plays an important role in the interaction of economic growth, social development and a healthy environment, all of which can advance peace and sustainable development. 

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Environmental issues have a significant security dimension. Access to, and overuse of, natural resources often play a key role in civil wars or other forms of internal domestic conflict. This is compounded by climate change and environmental degradation. Climate change is now widely recognised as a non-traditional, risk-multiplying threat that will have increasing security impacts. Key risks with possible implications for human and national security include water scarcity, food crises, natural disasters, and displacement. More preventive diplomacy and advocacy is needed to address the strategic implications of climate and environmental change.

Sustainable Transformation

Sustainable Transformation allows societies to profit from a growing, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economy – especially in emerging and developing countries. This requires a higher up-front investment, but the benefits of a sustainable transformation in the medium and long term are significant. For instance, energy cost savings and reducing the impact of price volatility offer major incentives for deploying renewable energies and promoting energy efficiency. Such benefits exist in all key sectors of the economy.

Technology & Innovation

Innovations and technologies are already readily available and affordable but their global diffusion and uptake remains a challenge. Innovation and technology are crucial to achieving ambitious climate change mitigation and adaptation targets. However, research and development often do not receive appropriate public support. Developing countries can leapfrog high-carbon industrialisation phases by adopting, deploying and improving existing innovations and technologies. For this, it is essential to minimise financial, administrative and political barriers.


The availability of freshwater resources in sufficient quantity and quality is essential for the preservation of human health and sound ecosystems. The use of water resources is also vital, however, for economic development: whether for agriculture, industrial production or for electricity generation. The world's freshwater resources are distributed very unevenly in terms of geography and seasons. In addition, water shortage is becoming more prevalent in several regions due to population growth, economic development, urbanisation and increasing environmental pollution. Thus, water resources can hold potential for conflicts between parties who have different interests and needs.

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The environment in Asia is already under tremendous pressure as a result of the unsustainable use of land, forests, water and even air in many regions. Climate change will only exacerbate these challenges. Rising sea levels will likely endanger densely populated areas, changes in the monsoon patterns can strongly impact agriculture, melting glaciers will increase long-term water scarcity, and extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and cyclones can pose further hazards.

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Central America & Caribbean

Natural disasters and water scarcity are key challenges for most of Central America and the Caribbean. These challenges will become even more pronounced as the climate changes. Weak resource and disaster risk management and land disputes pose additional security challenges for large parts of the region. Several countries of Central America and the Caribbean have limited adaptive capacities as they face political instability caused by high social inequality, crime, corruption, and intra-state conflicts.

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As one of the most developed and most densely populated regions in the world, Europe makes heavy use of its resources, resulting in difficult trade-offs and negative consequences for the environment and ecosystems. Land is used for settlements, agriculture and dense infrastructure, creating problems of soil degradation. Water resources are stressed due to unsustainable agricultural practices. Despite nature protection policies, Europe continues to lose biodiversity at an alarming pace. Some of these trends are exacerbated by climate change, which is expected, for instance, to lead to shifts in water availability.

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Global Issues

Resource scarcities, environmental pollution and climate change are not limited by national borders, but often have a transboundary or even global impact. These issues interact with political stability, governance structures and economic performance, and can trigger or worsen disputes and violent conflicts. Exacerbating some of these trends, climate change is likely to lead to the degradation of freshwater resources, declines in food production, increases in storm and flood disasters and environmentally induced migration. All these developments pose potential for conflict.

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Middle East & North Africa

The geopolitical position of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), its fossil fuel resources, high population growth and the political changes spurred by the Arab Spring all make the region one of the most dynamic in the world. Nevertheless, it is also one of the most arid and environmentally stressed. Dwindling water resources, limited arable and grazing land, high pollution from household and industrial waste, remnants of conflicts and increasing desertification are key environmental challenges.

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North America

Climate change has various impacts on the three North American countries of Canada, Mexico and the US. Canada and the US have well-developed adaptive capacities and foster the strengthening of capacities in other regions as well. With high per capita emissions, these two countries also bear a greater responsibility for a changing climate. Mexico has a sound national strategy for climate change adaptation, yet fewer capacities than Canada and the US. The poorer and rural populations of Mexico are especially vulnerable to climate change, due to an increased sensitivity and a lower adaptive capacity.

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Oceania & Pacific

In Oceania, population growth and economic development trends put a strain on oceanic and island ecosystems. Freshwater scarcity, overexploitation of fisheries, loss of land biodiversity, forests and trees, invasive species, soil degradation, increasing levels of settlement, poor management of solid and hazardous waste and disproportionate use of coastal areas are some of the problems. Climate change exacerbates most of these trends, while also raising questions about the future sovereignty of some island states.

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South America

South America has diverse and unique ecosystems and is very rich in biodiversity. Weak natural resource management, land disputes and extreme weather events bring about significant challenges for the region. While South America accounts for relatively few CO2 emissions, the changing climate will alter its ecosystems and greater climate variability will lead to more hurricanes, landslides, and droughts.

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Sub-Saharan Africa

In many African states, environmental security issues rank high on the political agenda. Throughout the continent, countries suffer from water scarcity, food insecurity and energy poverty. These chronic and worsening resource scarcities have severe livelihood implications and are exacerbated by political conflicts over access to and control over these resources. Climate change may seriously threaten political and economic stability in Africa. It may also put a severe strain on the capacities of states and societies to co-ordinate activities, to communicate and to organize.

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