ECC Platform Library


Climatic change, fragility and conflict in northern Mali

Type of conflict main
Intensity 4
Western Africa
Time 2012 ‐ ongoing
Countries Mali
Resources Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Conflict Summary Progressive warming and frequent droughts have aggravated an already complicated security situation in northern Mali. Despite a recent agreement with...
Climatic change, fragility and conflict in northern Mali
Progressive warming and frequent droughts have aggravated an already complicated security situation in northern Mali. Despite a recent agreement with northern rebel groups and the presence of a sizeable peacekeeping force, communal tensions remain and radical Islamist groups continue to be a major threat to the region.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

The high level of poverty and the long history of political exclusion of northern Mali have made the area particularly vulnerable to climatic change. Mali, in particular its northern regions, are suffering from the combined effect of progressive warming and increasingly frequent droughts.

Intermediary Mechanisms

The increased frequency of droughts has had disastrous consequences for farmers and pastoralists in northern Mali. The lack of economic alternatives and the threat of droughts on livelihoods have exacerbated the inequalities between north and south. Thus, northern populations have become especially aware of the government’s neglect.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

These developments have increased support for rebel and terrorist groups and have fuelled strong anti-state grievances among communities such as the Tuareg. Against this backdrop, many young northerners seek employment and security with armed groups such as Ansar Dine or the separatists rebellion spearheaded by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). Drought-induced hardships also encourage criminal activities, such as smuggling, banditry, and kidnapping.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversChanging climate reduces available natural resources.More frequent/intense extreme weather events reduce available natural resources.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources undermines resource-dependent livelihoods.Livelihood insecurity reveals lacking capacity of the state to manage crises.The perceived inadequacy of state capacity leads to growing discontent with the state.Reduced capacity and/or legitimacy of the state augments the risk of crime, violence, and extremism.A slow change in climatic conditions, particularly temperature and precipitation.Gradual Change in Temperature and/or PrecipitationGrowing scarcity of essential natural resources.Natural Resource ScarcityAn increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.More Frequent / Intense Extreme Weather EventsA threat or destruction of livelihoods dependent on the availability of environmental resources / goods.Livelihood InsecurityReduced capacity of the state to fulfil basic functions deemed necessary by the population and/or reduced public support for state authorities.Reduced State Capacity and/or LegitimacyChallenge 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
  • Food Insecurity
  • Water-stressed Area
  • Eroded Social Contract
  • History of Conflict
  • Political Marginalization
  • Political Transition
  • Proliferation of Weapons
  • Unresponsive Government
Conflict History

Mali is currently facing multiple and intertwined security challenges. From 2012 to 2015 a separatist rebellion spearheaded by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) shook the northern part of the country. After the intervention of the United Nations, the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), Algeria and France, a peace agreement between the northern rebels and the Malian government was reached in June 2015. However, a number of violent incidents have occurred since, involving various non-state armed groups, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), as well as the G5 Sahel joint force and the government of Mali (Boutellis & Zahar, 2017a ;Sieff, 2017), leading also to wide-spread suffering for civilians (MINUSMA, 2018). Moreover, conflict recently spread to the centre of the country as insurgent groups have moved south to the Mopti region (Boutellis & Zahar, 2017b).

Communal tensions in northern Mali - which were partly responsible for the 2012 uprising – remain and many of the underlying tensions between northern and southern Mali - in particular important gaps in development and access to essential services - are yet to be addressed (c.f. Davis, 2014Rüttinger et al., 2015:31; Lorentzen, 2017).

Meanwhile, and partly in connection with the above conflict, and conflicts in neighbouring Algeria and Libya, northern Mali has evolved into a sanctuary for traffickers, bandits and radical Islamist organizations such as the Al-Qaeda affiliated Jama'a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) (Benjaminsen & Boubacar, 2019), despite the presence of sizeable  peacekeeping force and French troops, as well as the deployment of the anti-terror and anti-trafficking G5 Sahel joint force on Malian soil. The ongoing violence represents a serious threat to the country's security and risks to delay the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement (UN, 2016Stigall, 2015Ahmed, 2016). These threats arose after a serious legitimacy crisis in Mali's leadership and institutions. In March 2012, then-president Amadou Toumani Touré was overthrown in a military coup led by Captain Amadou Sanogo. He was followed by Ibrahim Boubacar Keita who won the election in 2013 and in 2018. However, after both elections, the opposition refused to accept the results. The latter was heavily influenced by violence, with up to 20 per cent of the polling stations affected and three percent having to close down completely (Deutsche Welle, 2018). 

Unstable neighbours, inner crisis and environmental change
The origins of this situation can be traced back to the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, leading to a massive influx of weapons and returning Tuareg combatants from Libya. Mali’s leadership was gradually weakened, eventually culminating in the 2012 coup against Amadou Toumani Touré (Larémont, 2013; Jalali, 2013). Tensions between the North and the South have a long history and brought about four rebellions over the timespan of about 50 years (Boutellis & Zahar, 2017a). The most recent coup in 2012 followed a period, in which Touré allegedly supported AQIM in a bid to suppress mounting irredentism in the north (ibid.). However, the strategy backfired. Not only did it undermine northerners’ trust in the government thus benefitting the separatist MNLA, but it also eroded Touré's support within the armed forces and more generally within the Malian population. Moreover, absent strong sanctions, AQIM and other terrorist groups were able to extend their influence in northern Mali (Bakrania, 2013Welsh, 2012).

A further important and often overlooked factor behind the Malian crisis is climatic change. Mali and in particular its northern regions are suffering from the combined effect of progressive warming and increasingly erratic weather conditions, leading to intermittent and severe drought conditions, which accentuate existing grievances and enhance support for rebel and terrorist groups.

Changing climatic conditions exacerbate northern grievances
Years of government neglect and lack of investments have left northern Mali with insufficient infrastructures and poor access to essential services. Socioeconomic indicators such as school attendance and malnutrition rank well below the country's average (Bakrania, 2013). In northern towns such as Gao and Timbuktu three times as many people live below the poverty line, when compared to the capital Bamako (Davis, 2014). Economic marginalisation in the north is also accompanied by political exclusion and the alienation of pastoral land, which have informed strong anti-state grievances among nomadic Tuareg and Fulani communities (see also Tuareg Rebellion in Mali 1990-1995).

Moreover, poverty and political exclusion have made northern Mali particularly vulnerable to progressive warming and increasingly frequent droughts (de Sherbinin et al., 2014). Since 1960, and partly as a result of anthropogenic climate change, temperatures in Mali have risen by 0.7°C (Goulden & Few, 2011Niang et al., 2014). In the Sahelian centre of the country, a shift in rainfall patterns between 1970 and 2000 has led to a severe reduction of years in which crop production is possible, from which herders in the region have not been able to recover since (Gawthrop, 2017). At the same time, various sources indicate an increased frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts, with disastrous consequences for farmers and pastoralists in northern Mali (Arsenault, 2015weAdapt, 2016EMDAT, 2016; c.f. (Hartmann et al, 2013). These developments have not only exacerbated inequalities between north and south, but have also made northern populations brutally aware of the south’s disengagement and thus increased support for separatist groups such as the MNLA (Lecocq & Belalimat, 2012Bakrania, 2013Morgan, 2014).

Droughts, destitution and ‘food for jihad’
Besides increasing support for northern irredentism, droughts and worsening ecological conditions also facilitated the recruitment of fighters by both separatist and Islamist armed groups (Morgan, 2014). As explained by a senior adviser to the Malian ministry of agriculture ‘there is such poverty [in the north], the environment is so tough, that when the jihadists come they find it easy to get followers’ (Arsenault, 2015). Indeed, lacking economic alternatives and seeing their livelihoods threatened by drought, environmental degradation and intermittent conflict, many young northerners seek employment and security with armed extremist groups (Davis 2014Welsh, 2012). In other cases drought-induced hardships encourage criminal activities, such as smuggling, banditry and kidnapping, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle of insecurity and further deteriorated livelihoods (Bakrania, 2013Lecocq & Belalimat, 2012).  

[Last update 2019-01-15]

Resolution Efforts

The security crisis in northern Mali has prompted a number of responses from civil society organisations, the Malian government as well as the international community. Negotiations between separatist rebels spearheaded by the MNLA and the government of Mali led to an agreement in June 2015, which grants northern Mali more autonomy, a better representation in national institutions and more significant development resources. Further points of the accord are the demobilisation of rebel fighters and their integration into the regular armed forces, as well as the progressive transfer of territorial control to the Malian army, while conceding local authorities the control over local police forces (Ahmed, 2014; Le Touzet, 2015; RFI, 2015a). In accordance with these provisions two major milestones were reached in 2017. First, a joint patrol between government forces, pro-government groups and rebels was established for the first time. Second, interim authorities were installed in Northern regions after an agreement was reached on their composition (Boutellis & Zahar, 2017a).

Despite some successes problems are manifold: Implementation of the 2015 agreement generally lags behind and violence and human rights abuses continue to be widespread (MINUSMA, 2018; Boutellis & Zahar, 2017a; Lorentzen, 2017). Agreements between northern separatists and the government in Bamako were reached both in 2006 and 2013, but since failed, due to slow implementation, the erosion of government credibility and conflicts of interest between different rebel factions (Pezard & Shurkin, 2015). In the short-term it is thus urgent to rapidly advance on the provisions of the 2015 agreement. In the medium-to-long-term, the government of Mali and its partners need to address northern communities' needs for security, prosperity and political participation.

Rebuilding trust in the government and the army
Past political crises have undermined the credibility of the Malian government. In particular corruption and clientelism have compromised political and economic reforms, while also preventing the formation of a meaningful political opposition (Davis, 2014; Crisis group, 2012). Increasing parliamentary oversight and extending the powers of parliamentary commissions could not only promote necessary reforms but also rebuild trust in the state and its institutions (Davis, 2014).

Central and local government structures could further increase their legitimacy by working more closely with traditional systems of governance and conflict resolution. To this effect, skills and financial resources need to be transferred from central to local government structures (Davis, 2014).

Most importantly, mistrust in the Malian army - which many northerners still consider as an 'occupying force' - needs to be addressed (Pezard & Shurkin, 2015). Indiscipline, varying loyalties, inefficiency, collusion with traffickers and serious human rights violations have tainted the image of Mali's security forces (Davis, 2014; MINUSMA, 2018). To rebuild trust in the armed forces, the government tries to reorganise its military command structure (Bakrania, 2013) and integrate ex-rebel fighters, a central point of the 2015 agreement (Roger, 2015). In addition, a 2014 executive order establishes the ‘Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission’.

On the one hand, the Commission has been criticised for lacking legitimacy due the exclusion of important stakeholders and victims (Human Rights Watch, 2017). On the other hand, the establishment alone and the fast progress in creating internal structures and a general strategy have been hailed as a success (The International Center for Transitional Justice, 2016; MINUSMA, 2018).

Economic development and climate change adaptation
Revitalising the Malian economy and providing economic alternatives to northern communities are a further important step in curbing trafficking, crime and the influence of terrorists in northern Mali (Bakrania, 2013). After regaining its pre-crisis level, GDP growth recently slowed, but the economic outlook remains positive. The government of Mali has laid out various plans to spur socio-economic development: A special program, the Programme de Développement Accéléré des Régions du Nord (PDA/RN), is dedicated to northern Mali, in order to accelerate the implementation of local development projects (OECD, 2015). In addition, in 2016 the government presented its development strategy Cadre stratégique pour la relance économique et le développement durable (CREDD), which functions as a guideline to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda (Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, n.d.).

However, the success of most efforts remains below expectations: The rapid growth of the workforce has surpassed efforts to create new jobs, educational reforms, so far, yield disappointing results, infrastructural development has been delayed due to limited financial and implementation capacities, and the expansion of cultivated surfaces is hampered by limited access to agricultural inputs and modern irrigation techniques (OECD, 2015; Davis, 2014). Consequently, need for humanitarian assistance is still widespread, especially in the north and food insecurity due to conflict and weather dependency remains a major problem in Mali (Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2018).

Given northern Mali's high vulnerability to progressive warming and extreme weather events and the links of these phenomena to security, particular attention needs to be given to climate change adaptation. Mali has completed its National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) in 2007, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The programme has raised the awareness of climate change and existing adaptation measures within the government and among the population (Watts, 2012; weAdapt, 2016). Furthermore, USAID is working on an extensive climate information dissemination programme in cooperation with the Malian national meteorological agency (see USAID, 2014). However, local communities and local governments have not been sufficiently included in the NAPA, which makes it difficult to integrate and coordinate existing community-level adaptation strategies (Watts, 2012). Moreover, to increase food security and thereby reduce extremists’ recruitments, there is a need to further diversify livelihoods into activities that are resilient to climate change (Giannini, 2017).

Successes and limitations of international responses
Under the aegis of Algeria, mediation efforts between the government of Mali and northern armed groups have included the African Union (AU), the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations (UN), the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as well as Burkina Faso, Mauretania, Niger and Chad (Bertrand, 2015). Moreover, ECOWAS has played a leading part in mediating the political transition after the 2012 coup and preparing the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) – replaced by MINUSMA) in July 2013 (Bakrania, 2013; UN, 2016). In January 2013, France launched a large military offensive against northern armed groups (Opération Serval), which, in July 2014, transitioned into a more durable counter-terrorism operation comprising the Sahel countries Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger (Opération Barkhane) (Stigall, 2015). These responses have been accompanied by humanitarian actions and capacity building with a particular emphasis on strengthening Mali and other Sahel-countries against the double threat of terrorism and food insecurity (see Bakrania, 2013; EU, 2015).

These measures have facilitated presidential elections in 2013, eased a settlement with the northern rebels and brought most of the country back under Malian control (Pezard & Shurkin, 2015; Stigall, 2015). However, the international involvement in Mali has also been criticised for being biased, lacking coordination and upholding the power of a discredited political elite (Oluwadare, 2014; Théroux-Bénoni, 2013; Samba Kane, 2014). In particular the efforts of ECOWAS's lead mediator and Burkinabe president Blaise Compaoré after the 2012 coup have been qualified as ' chaotic and unilateral' (Bakrania, 2013), while the french Opération Serval has been accused of exacerbating communal tensions in northern Mali (Davis, 2014).

Remaining challenges
Despite notable progress, the situation in northern Mali remains fragile and the implementation of the peace agreement has lagged behind (Boutellis & Zahar, 2017a). In addition, the fragmentation and reorganization of non-state armed groups has led to new difficulties. Although, they are not signatories of the 2015 peace agreements, new groups have belatedly demanded involvement in the process and do not shy away from using violence to enforce their argument (ibid.). Moreover, traffickers and terrorist groups are still active in the hinterland and maintain working relationships with some of the signatories of the 2015 agreement (Ahmed, 2016; Roger, 2015).

Due to a strong emphasis on combatting terrorist groups, ethnic tensions between northern communities have not been addressed. Short-sighted counter-terrorism actions might even exacerbate these tensions in the longer term (Davis, 2014). It is also claimed that women have not been adequately involved in the negotiation and implementation process of the peace agreement, making it more difficult to attain sustainable peace (Lorentzen, 2017). Finally, the 2015 agreement foresees more autonomous institutions for northern Mali, but these are yet not well equipped to include minorities such as the Tuareg and could thus encourage new conflicts in in the future.

[Last update 2019-01-15]

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

Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Manifest Crisis
Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation Regional
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 Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Togo, Niger, Algeria
Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Resolution Success
Reduction in Violence Violence reduced significantly, but did not cede.
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 The capacity to address grievances in the future has increased.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been partially addressed.
Causal Attribution of Decrease in Conflict Intensity Conflict resolution strategies have been clearly responsible for the decrease in conflict intensity.
General opencollapse
Country Data in Comparison
ConflictNoData Created with Sketch.
Fault Lines Defining Conflict Parties
Purely Environmental | Cultural   ♦   Occupational   ♦   Economic   ♦   Urban / Rural   ♦   National / International conflict   ♦   Sub-national political

Participation Conflict Party     Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Government of Mali
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Ansar Dine
Functional GroupNon-State Violent Actor
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)
Functional GroupNon-State Violent Actor
Geographical ScaleExternal
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
Functional GroupNon-State Violent Actor
Geographical ScaleExternal
National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA)
Functional GroupNon-State Violent Actor
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
African Union
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Government of Algeria
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Government of France
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
United Nation Development Programme (UNDP)
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
European Union
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin
Functional GroupNon-State Violent Actor
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Islamic State in the Greater Sahara
Functional GroupNon-State Violent Actor
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleExternal
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
2 Disarmament, demobilisation & reintegration Part of the negotiations for the 2015 agreement included the demobilisation of rebel fighters and their integration into the armed forces. The creation of a joint patrol between government forces, pro-government groups and rebels further contributes to de-escalation.
2 Mediation & arbitration The government of Mali and northern armed groups have received mediation assistance from Algeria, the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations (UN), the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as well as Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. Even though these efforts have been relatively successful, international involvement has been criticised for being biased, lacking coordination and maintaining a discredited political elite in power.
3 Treaty/agreement An agreement between separatist rebels and the government of Mali was reached in 2015, granting northern Mali more autonomy, a better political representation, and more significant development resources. However, the implementation of this ambitious plan is largely lagging behind.
1 Social inclusion & empowerment The Malian government has implemented the Programme de Développement Accéléré des Régions du Nord (PDA/RN), with the aim of accelerating the implementation of local development projects in northern Mali. However, the success of these efforts remains below expectations.
2 Transitional justice Rapid progress has been made in the structural composition of the ‘Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission’ which was introduced in 2014. It is now necessary to overcome problems of legitimacy by better including conflict victims and reaching out to more stakeholders on future developments of the Commission.
0 Changes in constitutional balance of power In order to increase the legitimacy of the state and its institutions, the powers of parliamentary commissions could be extended, and the parliamentary oversight could be increased. Skills and financial resources could also be transferred from central to local government structures in order to work more closely with traditional systems of governance, and improve the legitimacy of the state.
2 Improving actionable information USAID is working on an extensive climate information dissemination programme in cooperation with the Malian national meteorological agency.
2 Coping with uncertainty Mali completed its National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) in 2007, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The programme has raised the awareness of climate change and existing adaptation measures within the government and among the population. It would be good, if Mali invested in diversifying livelihoods into activities that are not affected by climate change.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Character of the contested good Common-pool resource: No one can be excluded from use but the good is depleted.
Structure of decision-making power / interdependence Asymmetric: The power to affect the environmental resource is unequal.
Broad conflict characterization Resource capture is not present.
Ecological marginalization is not present.
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse
Conflict References References with URL


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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