ECC Platform Library


Conflict and Armed Opposition Groups in the Lake Chad Basin

Type of conflict sub
Intensity 4
Western Africa
Time 2009 ‐ ongoing
Countries Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon
Resources Fish, Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water, Resilience of the environment
Conflict Summary The people living around Lake Chad are currently suffering from an intertwined humanitarian and security crisis. Clashes between military forces and Boko...
Conflict and Armed Opposition Groups in the Lake Chad Basin
The people living around Lake Chad are currently suffering from an intertwined humanitarian and security crisis. Clashes between military forces and Boko Haram over territory, attacks on civilians, and heavy handed counter-insurgency measures are worsening displacement, food insecurity and eroding of trust in political authorities. The government’s approach, often centred on military operations, has often undermined local livelihoods adding to the pressures already faced by communities living in conflict areas. Combined social, economic and political developments underlie the current situation while pressures brought by climate change could compound its severity.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

Climatic variability could bring challenges to local livelihoods in the future. Meanwhile violence and the disruption of habitual coping mechanisms undermine the ability of local communities to withstand the effects of climate change.

Intermediary Mechanisms

Climatic changes could disrupt the livelihoods of local farmers and pastoralists and add to existing economic challenges that facilitate recruitment by armed opposition groups. Moreover, climate-induced pressures on local resources could intensify competition and conflicts between different user groups. The inability of governments to resolve these problems erode the legitimacy of public authorities, a gap which is filled to some extent by extremist groups.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

A lack of faith in the government and opportunism of armed opposition groups are driving radicalisation in the region. Human rights abuses by all conflict parties and highly repressive military measures taken by the governments of the Lake Chad region have made communities vulnerable to ecological and economic shocks.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversChanging climate reduces available natural resources.Legal / Political interference restricts access to natural resources.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources reduces available resources and ecosystem services.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources undermines resource-dependent livelihoods.Livelihood insecurity reveals lacking capacity of the state to manage crises.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources provokes discontent with the state.The perceived inadequacy of state capacity leads to growing discontent with the state.Livelihood insecurity leads to growing discontent with the state.Livelihood insecurity 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 ScarcityLaws and/or interventions by political actors restrict the access to natural resources.Legal / Political InterferenceReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural ResourcesA 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
  • Lack of Alternative Livelihoods
  • Trade restrictions
  • Elite Exploitation
  • Eroded Social Contract
  • Political Marginalization
Conflict History

In late July 2009, Nigerian security forces raided a location in Bauchi, northern Nigeria, confiscating weapons and arresting nine people. Over the next few days, riots broke out in 4 cities in Nigeria’s northeast. Many government and police buildings were destroyed and around 700 people were killed in the uprising and military response. The location was later revealed to be an insurgent base and the riots were later dubbed the “uprising” (Adesoji, 2010). Since then, clashes involving state security forces and Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad (People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad), commonly known as “Boko Haram” have led to the deaths of over 35,000 people and the displacement of 2.4 million (Council of Foreign Relations, 2019).

The response of the Nigerian government (leading the fight against Boko Haram) in collaboration with the militaries of the other riparian states (Chad, Cameroon, and Niger) has been heavy handed. The combined militaries (Multinational Joint Task force or MNJTF) anti-terror measures have often hurt local communities directly or indirectly. Ironically, overly militarised responses could be driving recruitment into insurgent groups rather than preventing it, as Jihadists capitalise on grievances over state oppression, among others related to lack of public service provision (Benjaminsen & Ba, 2018; see also case study on violent extremism in the Sahel).

The rise of Boko Haram
Until the late 2000s, Boko Haram was largely confined to Borno State in northern Nigeria. It originated from an Islamic reading group in the 1990s which was critical of the government’s inability to bring prosperity to the north. Muhamamd Yusuf, the group’s leader blamed the western education of leaders for their failure, and in particular the hoarding of wealth which left the primarily Muslim north of the country chronically impoverished. In reaction to various national and global political factors such as wars in the Middle East and growing hostility towards the government, the group grew during the 2000s, engaging in electoral politics in 2003. In the years leading up to the uprising and subsequent ban of the group, Boko Haram’s aims of combining sharia and governance was supported by many local politicians including the current president Muhammadu Buhari (Harnischfeger 2014). After the 2009 uprising Boko Haram internationalised, and collaborated with other radical Islamic groups such as AQIM, al-Shabaab, and Malian groups. This was when it began to use extreme violence against civilians to pursue its political agenda (Watts, 2017). 

The recent growth of Boko Haram is linked to various intertwined political, social, economic and ecological developments in Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria. In 2015, Nigeria’s current President Buhari was elected to replace Goodluck Jonathan on an anti-corruption platform in the wake of multiple embezzlement scandals (BBC, 2015, Kazeem, 2015) and a growing distrust of elites. Shortly after, the country experienced a recession related to a plunge in oil prices and a related fall in government revenue (Agri et al, 2016). Like other insurgencies such as the movement for the emancipation of the Niger delta (MEND) a major oil producing region, it gained large numbers of fighters through the recruitment of young men living in precarious social and economic conditions. However, local variances shaped the insurgencies differently (Watts, 2017) (see case study on oil production in the Niger Delta).

Driving factors
Many scholars question the idea that religious or ideological factors are driving the conflict, regarding them more as opportunitistic strategies to mobilise support in the context of economic hardship and political problems (Connor, 2017). After independence in 1960, the Northeast of Nigeria near Lake Chad was associated with wealth owing to mineral deposits and rich agricultural soils. However, since the 1970s the country’s economy has been centred around oil (Omeje, 2006) effectively leaving other regions economically marginalised and politically forgotten. Over the past decades wealth has increasingly been centred in the Christian south, while the North has suffered economically (Wallis, 2014).

Poverty was worsened by the structural adjustment policies imposed in the 1980s and 1990s that reduced employment opportunities in the public sector (Watts, 2017) and recurring droughts especially in Chad and Niger. Freedom Onuoha (2014) draws a link between poverty and lack of education and the vulnerability of the communities to join groups such as Boko Haram. While others attribute the growth to crisis of youth living in precarious circumstances (Nagarajan, 2018) or a combination of factors which augmented challenges to the ideological legitimacy of governing institutions (Watts, 2016).

The insurgency has arguably benefited from a decline in the perceived authority of governments and state institutions in the region. Structural neglect of the border regions around Lake Chad and multiple political crises have eroded the credibility of institutions and made people more receptive to political and economic promises made by jihadist groups (Watts, 2017).

Moreover, increasing violence against civilians is an incentive for some people to seek the protection of armed militias. In particular, indiscriminate violence by state security forces could be responsible for the rising popularity of armed opposition groups. According to specialist Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos, “blind repression” of the Nigerian army – who were blamed for slaughter and rape in the North –led many to join Boko Haram forces against the government (Malagardis, 2014). Meanwhile, state-sponsored local self-defence units were accused of human rights abuses and extreme violence against civilians (Nagarajan, 2018) and there have been limited efforts to reintegrate ex combatants back into communities, with a detrimental effect on social cohesion in the region (Vivekananda et al, 2019).  

State-imposed restrictions on trade and access to the lake
Military responses to the crisis have further 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 (see case study on local conflicts around Lake Chad). To aid the military effort, governments in the region closed their borders and prohibited access to certain places. This cut off important trade routes and banned local communities from essential fishing areas and pastures. The military and police forces have also restricted small scale agriculture and fishing to cut off armed opposition groups’ income and food supply; tall crops have been banned in some areas as they could offer hiding places for insurgents (Vivekananda et al, 2019).

Reduced possibilities to cope with climate and environmental change
Military efforts may also have had a negative effect on the ability of local communities to withstand the effects climate change and variability of precipitation patterns. While communities were previously able to shift livelihoods and migrate to adapt to variability, restrictions on access to natural resources related to the conflict around Lake Chad are making this more difficult.

The future effects of climate change on the region are uncertain. Around Lake Chad and across the Sahel temperatures are projected to increase by 0.65 °C and 1.6 °C between 2016 and 2025 (Mahmood et al, 2019), although trends are likely to vary across countries and regions (see Karmalkar et al, 2012). Overall, precipitation is predicted to decrease in the basin in the coming years (Mahmood, 2019), while rainfalls are likely to become more variable and unpredictable (Nagarajan et al, 2018; 18). This could have impacts on agriculture and health, as the possibility of floods or droughts would increase with more variability (Ly et al, 2013). On the other hand, there is a trend towards increasing rainfall in the Sahel, which may also affect available water in some areas around the Lake Chad Basin (Nagarajan et al, 2018).

People living around Lake Chad are used to adapting to changing climatic conditions. However, conflict has hindered adaptive capacity in various ways. For instance, moving to new grazing areas made available by the variability in rainfall as well as growing different crops and adapting fishing according to climatic variations were often curtailed in the fight against insurgent groups. The strong enforcement of borders and restriction of pastoralist mobility and trade as well as small scale agriculture around the lake has reduced the resilience of agro-pastoral and subsistence agriculture systems (Vivekananda et al, 2019).

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 (Onuoha, 2014; Malagardis, 2014).


Resolution Efforts

Over-militarised counter-insurgency measures
Until now, the main strategy employed by Lake Chad governments in relation to the insurgents 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) to regain territory from Boko Haram.  The force is under the auspices of the Lake Chad Basin Commission. Its mandate, from the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) led to the deployment of 10,000 fighters. The MJTF also employs, albeit indirectly, numerous local counter insurgency militias amounting to around 35,000 fighters from Chad Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger (Assanvo et al, 2016). These combined forces potentially outnumber the estimated 7,000-15,000 fighters of Boko Haram, however, it is possible the numbers of fighters in the insurgency is underestimated (Amnesty international, 2015).

While militarised approaches to the crisis have weakened the insurgency, in some areas they have lacked foresight and undermined local livelihoods. In Niger and Chad the military restricted fishing, grazing and farming rights for subsistence agriculture. This weakened public support for state institutions and military presence and allowed insurgents to exploit grievances of those affected by repressive actions and policies.

Moreover, militarised approaches have in many cases overshadowed attempts to address underlying political, social, economic and ecological concerns of people living in the basin. As a result, social cohesion between various groups has been weakened. Conflicts over land rights and restrictions on the use of natural resources have increased tensions both between and within social groups, occasionally leading to conflict and violence based on ethnic, gender and class distinctions, as well as between sedentary farmers and nomadic herders (see case study on local conflicts around Lake Chad).  Previous trade and social links have come under increased pressure due to human rights violations and restrictions on trade and mobility imposed by the military.

Economic development and social cohesion
Some have argued that a successful resolution of the crisis around Lake Chad may require 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).

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 (ibid). The Lake Chad Basin Commission’s Lake Chad Development and Climate Resilience Action Plan (2015) highlights a need to develop rural electrification and secure land rights for communities to foster rural development. However these could become targets for insurgent groups or worsen tensions if introduced inequitably.

Promoting Dialogue
While negotiations between security forces and the insurgency have been limited, there have been some indications that dialogue is possible between the groups. In 2015 for instance, Information minister Lai Mohammed said the government have been in negotiations with Boko Haram. President Buhari told the media in 2015 that he was willing to negotiate the return of kidnapped girls who were taken in 2014. However, he was only successful in negotiating the return of around half of them. Efforts to resolve the conflict through negotiation have so far proven unsuccessful due in part the fragmented nature of the insurgency and the fact that some factions are more open to dialogue than others (Campbell, 2018). The strategy has tended therefore towards and increased military effort.

Enhancing local livelihoods
Local 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. Currently strategies to resolve the conflict often restrict mobility and access to markets; curbing, rather than supporting local adaptation strategies.

Where mobility is hindered, communities employ practices to make livelihoods more secure and resilient to ecological and economic shocks. For instance, harvesting Typha, known locally as bulrush or cattail may address a few of the challenges. A reed common to Lake Chad, security forces have claimed it offers shelter to insurgents. However, it is also a foodstuff, a biofuel and can be used in building. Hence promoting its use could aid 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).

Climate Change adaptation
While migration and movement is the most common way for local communities to deal with changes in temperature and precipitation, sometimes migration routes may be blocked by border guards. Meanwhile, previously reliable and fertile destinations may be hit by droughts or other problems. 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 local communities who have previously been marginalised. Further, pastoralist mobility and resilience rely on open migration routes, thus strong border regimes may impede on the adaptability of livelihoods and reduce the social cohesion of cross-border social networks.

Finally, Polders are an effective way to control floods and create productive land for food production, well suited to the shore areas around Lake Chad. Polders, land reclaimed from a body of water by building dikes and drainage canals, require some initial infrastructure investment for drainage and irrigation. They have been successfully used in the region, especially around Bol, in Chad, since the 1960s, to grow crops (Vivekananda et al, 2019).

Towards a holistic approach to the crisis
Furthermore, a better understanding of peace and conflict between land users and their engagement(see case study on local conflicts around Lake Chad) in development policies is needed to explain the rise of insurgent groups, as well as the effects of environmental and economic and social changes on insecurity. This would include gathering more information on security, the environment, the economy and society in the region.

There is also entrenched gender based violence and inequality which has worsened over the past decade in relation to the conflicts (Vivekananda et al, 2019). This implies social and economic policies should take issues of gender into account (it is thought Boko Haram gained support from young men who felt excluded from institutions of marriage) (ibid). Solutions may also involve long-term planning based on detailed social and ecological data to provide information on the relationships between policies, social relations, climate change and conflict. Improving available information could also include greater participation of a wide variety of groups in the gathering of relevant information for social policies if research is designed according to the concerns of affected groups.


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 Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon
Fish, Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water, Resilience of the environment
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.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been mostly ignored.
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
Boko Haram
Functional GroupNon-State Violent Actor
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Government of Niger
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 Chad Government
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Yan Gora (CJTF)
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
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
0 Peacekeeping 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. For this is will be necessary to critically review and adapt the tactics used to combat armed opposition groups.
1 Dialogue There have been suggestions to open dialogue but they have been overshadowed by a heavy handed military effort
1 Social inclusion & empowerment Livelihoods relate to more than just the provision of jobs, support needs to be holistic and address all sections of society and inequalities between social groups and along the lines of gender, class and ethnicity in order to restore social cohesion and local governance. Gender inequality is a central dynamic in the conflict, and violations of human rights in the context of abuse by militaries are frequent. Facilitating access to land and other productive assets, particularly for women who face difficulties in owning land, should be an important element of preventing the power imbalances which lead to gender based violence. More investment in support for survivors of abuse is also needed.
1 Promoting peaceful relations 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. Social cohesion could further be promoted by providing access to mechanisms for justice and dialogue between generations, social groups and between conflicts parties. Securing peoples’ right to land may also directly contribute to peacebuilding and enhanced social cohesion.
1 Improving state capacity & legitimacy Local institutions require support to develop appropriate policies and environmental and social planning at the local or municipal level. This suggests Investment in governance and institutional development is needed.
1 Improving infrastructure & services Critical to community resilience to crises, and in underlying fractured relations between the state and citizens is access to basic services such as sanitation, health and education.
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 awareness and readiness, e.g. through the dissemination of better climate and hydrological information, can help farmers, pastoralists and fisher folk adapt to economic and ecological shocks, while facilitating forward-looking policies.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Character of the contested good Public good: No one can be excluded from use and the good is not depleted.
Structure of decision-making power / interdependence Asymmetric: The power to affect the environmental resource is unequal.
Broad conflict characterization Resource Capture is present.
Ecological Marginalization is present.
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse
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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