ECC Platform Library

 

Food price volatility and fragility in the MENA region

Type of conflict main
Intensity 2
Region
Time 2006 ‐ ongoing
Countries Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Jordan
Resources Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Conflict Summary This case study explores the ways in which soaring global food prices have interacted with other risk factors in the MENA region to create conditions ripe...
Food price volatility and fragility in the MENA region
This case study explores the ways in which soaring global food prices have interacted with other risk factors in the MENA region to create conditions ripe for revolt. It places these dynamics in the particular context of food import dependency, a characteristic of many MENA countries, and, furthermore, discusses past and potential future efforts to reduce MENA countries' vulnerability to food price fluctuations.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

Several major export countries experienced extreme weather events such as droughts and wildfires that led to food production shortfalls.

Intermediary Mechanisms

Both human pressures and weather events were contributing factors to the 2007/2008 and 2010/2011 global food price spikes. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was particularly vulnerable to food price inflation due to the high dependence on food imports characteristic of the area.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

Episodes of global food price spikes have often been accompanied by protests and violent repression in the MENA region. For example, against the backdrop of a particularly fragile political situation in a number of MENA countries, food price inflation was arguably an important aggravating factor in the onset of the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversMore frequent/intense extreme weather events reduce available natural resources.Economic developments reduce available natural resources.Environmental policies encourage land use change.Changes in land use reduce available/usable natural resources.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources reduces available resources and ecosystem services.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to volatile food prices.Food price volatility weakens the state.An increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.More Frequent / Intense Extreme Weather EventsGrowing scarcity of essential natural resources.Natural Resource ScarcityA broad concept to cover economic growth in general but also specific economic changes or changes of incentives.Economic DevelopmentImplementation of environmental/climate policies, such as REDD+, climate adaptation or the promotion of crop-based biofuel development.Environmental / Climate PoliciesA change in the usage of environmentally relevant land.Land Use ChangeReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural ResourcesStrong fluctuations in the prices of foodstuffs, such as cereals or livestock.Volatile Food PricesA reduced ability of the state to fulfil basic functions.Weakened State
Context Factors
  • Food Import Dependency
  • Insecure Land Tenure
  • Trade restrictions
  • Cut in Consumer Subsidies
  • Eroded Social Contract
  • High Food Expenditure
  • Political Transition
Conflict History

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is generally characterised by high food import dependence, although important differences exist. Countries such as Turkey and Israel, for example, are largely self-sufficient, whereas countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt rely heavily on external food markets (INRA, 2015). This situation makes the region particularly vulnerable to the effects of international food price volatility. At the same time, the political stability of many MENA countries has long been tied to their ability to ensure affordable prices for bread and other essential food items through a system of stocks and subsidies. Episodes of food price inflation – caused either by external shocks or the removal of subsidies - have often been accompanied by protests and violent repression. For instance, bloody riots erupted in Egypt after bread subsidies were removed in 1977, and similar events have also occurred in other MENA countries (Brinkman & Hendrix, 2011).

This combination of political fragility and high dependence on international food markets makes many MENA countries susceptible to experience social turmoil in the wake of global food price spikes. A case in point is the series of revolutions that shook the region in 2011 - often referred to as the 'Arab Spring' - which coincided with a record high on the FAO Food Price Index (UNECA, 2012). Starting in December 2010, in Tunisia, this revolutionary wave of violent and non-violent protests spread rapidly throughout regions in North Africa and the Middle East and led to the toppling of autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as to protracted conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen (see case studies on Syrian Civil War and Food Price Shocks in Egypt).

Whilst some caution is advised against overstating the role of food price inflation in bringing about the Arab Spring - which was ultimately driven by dire economic prospects, deepening social inequalities and years of political disenfranchisement - several experts agree on its role as an aggravating factor (see: Werrel & Femia 2013; Johnstone & Mazo, 2013; Maystadt et al., 2014).

The present case study explores the ways in which soaring global food prices have interacted with other risk factors in the MENA region to create conditions ripe for revolt. Furthermore, it places these dynamics in the particular context of food import dependence, which characterises many MENA countries, and discusses past and potential future efforts to reduce MENA countries' vulnerability to food price fluctuations.

Setting the stage: High vulnerability to food price volatility
The MENA region comprises some of the world's largest importers of cereals and other basic foodstuffs, accounting for nearly 17% of international wheat imports - some 76 to 88% of which are absorbed by only three countries: Algeria, Egypt and Morocco (UNECA, 2012). Per capita food imports are higher than in any other region and can attain up to 25 or 50% of domestic consumption in some countries (Johnstone & Mazo, 2013).

The reasons for this high dependence on food imports can be seen in low internal production capacities (due to climatic constraints and insufficient irrigation capacities), rapidly growing domestic demand (MENA countries harbour some of the fastest growing populations in the world), as well as several decades of structural adjustment and export-oriented agricultural policies that have impaired local food production capacities (UNECA, 2012; Breisinger et al., 2012; Bush, 2010).

Import dependence, in turn, implies a higher vulnerability to price fluctuations on international food markets occasioned either by restrictive trade policies, financial speculation, changing energy prices or adverse climatic events in major exporting countries (see cases on Global Food Price Shocks and Droughts and the Grain Export Ban in Russia). However, there are important variations in the ability of MENA countries to cushion the local effects of global price changes via a range of measures such as consumer subsidies and selling grains from public stocks. For instance, from 2010 to 2011, Algerian and Tunisian consumers could expect a 0.05 unit increase in domestic food prices for each unit increase in the FAO global food price index, as opposed to a 0.33 unit increase for Egyptian consumers (Cincotta, 2014). 

Food prices and the Arab Spring
When international food prices reached record heights at the end of 2010, they met a particularly fragile political situation in a number of MENA countries. Decades of political repression and disenfranchisement had nourished strong social grievances that were further exacerbated by dire jobs prospects - especially among the younger generation - and the failure and apparent unwillingness of governments to fight corruption and attenuate the growing divide between rich and poor (see: Maystadt et al., 2014).

Against this backdrop, food price inflation had a strong destabilising effect. For one part, economically vulnerable households, which spend a higher part of their income on food, were disproportionately affected. This happened despite important subsidies and food distribution programmes (see UNECA, 2012). In Egypt, for instance, where low-income households spend up to 50% of their resources on basic foodstuffs, soaring food prices exacerbated economic pressures on vulnerable households, thereby deepening social inequalities and adding to the urge to replace a corrupt and ineffective government (see case: Food Price Shocks in Egypt).

For the other part, short-term measures to stabilise local prices, strengthen incomes and increase food security led to runaway deficits in public budgets (see: UNECA, 2012), leading, in turn, to major concerns about future cuts in public spending. These concerns were particularly strong among rural producers, which are highly dependent on farm input- and fuel subsidies, as well as among civil servants, which represent a sizeable part of the workforce in many MENA countries (Bteddini, 2012). Thus, instead of fostering political support, emergency measures in some MENA countries had the opposite effect of undermining confidence in political elites. For example, the promise of President Ben Ali to create 300,000 new jobs in reaction to quickly deteriorating living conditions in Tunisia was met with strong scepticism that did little to prevent his eventual fall from power in January 2011 (see case: Food Price Shocks in Tunisia).

In light of the above analysis, food price inflation appears to be an important aggravating factor in the onset of the Arab Spring revolutions. Moreover, the analysis shows that certain MENA countries' high dependence on cereal imports and, thereby, their vulnerability to price fluctuations on international markets has played an important part in connecting global food price spikes and episodes of social turmoil in several MENA countries. Reducing this vulnerability is, thus, likely to attenuate future security risks and contribute to peace and stability in the region.

Resolution Efforts

Currently, efforts in the MENA region aim at reducing food import dependency and better shielding the region's countries against the negative effects of global food price spikes. Given the past connection between food price spikes and social turmoil in the MENA region, these policies might not only boost agricultural productivity and increase overall food security, but also yield important benefits in terms of political stability.

Improving domestic food production capacities
Strengthening domestic food production capacities is a possible way to reduce dependence on international markets and thereby increase a country's resilience to global food price volatility. Indeed, several MENA countries have adopted a number of measures to support local producers (subsidies on fertilisers and seeds, credits, tax exemptions etc.) and encourage investments (e.g. land tenure reforms) (UNECA, 2012). Consequently, national budgets for agriculture have increased considerably, but still remain well below the 10% target defined in the 2003 Maputo Declaration (UNECA, 2012; NEPAD, 2016).

Whilst these measures have the potential to increase food security in the MENA region, they also come with important challenges. Most importantly, the MENA region figures among the world's zones most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and erratic weather, which can hamper agricultural development (UNECA, 2012; Mabey et al., 2013). Further difficulties arise from scarce water resources and inefficient water delivery infrastructures (see case on Water Scarcity in Egypt). Moreover, agricultural policies that aim to improve food security often encourage unsustainable irrigation practices, which drain local water resources, and can even become a source of conflicts (Mabey et al., 2013; see also case on Local Violence over Water Resources in Yemen).

The success of agricultural reforms in the MENA region will thus not only depend on the ability of MENA countries to attract sufficient investments, but also on their capacity to tackle the technical and institutional challenges of climate adaptation and sustainable resource use.

Protecting local consumers
In response to global food price hikes, a number of MENA countries has also adopted measures to reduce and control domestic prices: Fixed prices for items such as rice, bread, flour, oil and sugar (e.g. in Egypt, Morocco & Mauritania), release of food stocks at subsidised prices (e.g. in Algeria, Tunisia & Lebanon), reduction or suspension of VAT and other taxes on food items (e.g. in Jordan & Morocco), reduction of tariffs and custom fees on cereal imports (e.g. in Mauritania, Morocco & Libya), as well as restricted or banned food exports (e.g. in Egypt & Lebanon) (see Demeke et al., 2011 and UNECA, 2012 for a comprehensive list). In addition, several MENA countries have relied on social safety nets (cash transfers, ration cards, school feeding programmes etc.) and short-term measures to strengthen incomes and purchasing power (minimum wages, higher salaries for civil servants etc.) (UNECA, 2012).

In some cases, these measures have been successful in providing immediate relief and attenuating political pressures on governments (see case on Food Price Shocks in Morocco). Yet, in the long run, they represent a major burden on public budgets and might have a distorting effect on domestic production and prices (UNECA, 2012). Furthermore, they risk being prone to corruption and ineffective in targeting particularly vulnerable groups, thereby increasing social inequalities and associated grievances (see Brinkman & Hendrix, 2011). Most importantly, subsidies are also likely to generate new expectations which might prove very difficult to remove later on, without provoking major protests and possibly social turmoil (Rüttinger et al., 2015:42f). Their use as a short-term stabilisation measure thus bears certain long-term risks that MENA countries eventually will need to address.

Reducing trade barriers
In addition to the above strategies, there is scope for mitigating global food price fluctuations caused by trade restrictions in major exporting countries. In the wake of recent shortages in global food production, major cereal exporters such as Russia have imposed export bans to compensate for domestic production shortfalls (see Drought and Grain Export Ban in Russia and Global Food Price Shocks). While the relative importance of these measures in bringing about the global food price spikes observed in 2007/2008 and 2010/2011 is open to debate, experts generally agree that they had at least an amplifying effect on other factors, such as climate-related production shortfalls, increased demand, high fuel prices, and the global expansion of biofuel production (ICTSD, 2014; Sharma, 2011).

Multilateral mechanisms, such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) offer only limited possibilities for regulating export restrictions (Headey & Fan, 2010). Currently, bans and other quantitative restrictions are prohibited, but 'temporary' exceptions can be made in the case of 'critical shortages of foodstuffs or other products essential to the exporting contracting party' (GATT Article XI), while the key terms 'temporary', 'critical shortages' and 'foodstuffs' are not specified further. In addition, exporting countries still have the possibility to emulate the effect of a ban by imposing very high taxes on exports, leaving ample leeway to avoid current restrictions (Sharma, 2011; ICTSD, 2014). 

Several proposals have been made to strengthen multilateral provisions on export restrictions and thereby create safer and more predictable conditions for food importing countries. In November 2011, the net food importing developing countries (NFIDCs) and some of the least developed countries (LDCs) called for rules to exempt purchases of LDCs and NFIDCs from export restrictions (ICTSD, 2014; Anania, 2013). Similarly, Japan, Switzerland, Korea and the USA have called for the removal or at least a stricter regulation of export restrictions in the past (Sharma, 2011).

In recent years, however, the discussion has moved away from removing export restrictions and focusses instead on better defining key terms in multilateral agreements, tightening requirements for applying emergency export restrictions, improving notification and consultations processes and taking due consideration of the food security concerns of food importing countries (Sharma, 2011; ICTSD, 2014).

Another option consists in furthering and strengthening regional or bilateral trade agreements, in which food exporting countries commit to take greater account of the needs of food importing countries (see ICTSD, 2014).

Outward looking policies
Finally, a number of MENA countries have embarked on ambitious projects to outsource their food production. Companies from Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and the Arab Gulf Countries have acquired vast swathes of agricultural land in Africa and Asia (see Land Matrix, 2016). Although such deals have the potential to increase overall food production capacities by shifting cultivation to countries with more favourable climatic conditions, they also bear important social and environmental risks. For instance, a number of large-scale land acquisitions by foreign investors have been related to forced evictions of local communities and human rights abuses in target countries (see case on 'Off Shore' Land Acquisitions). Furthermore, they create important dependencies between investing and producing countries, which require the ability of both parties to make credible commitments.     

If such a system is to work effectively, it will require additional efforts in improving transnational cooperation and building strong institutional mechanisms that a) avoid harmful social and environmental effects in target countries and b) are able to manage conflicts and build trust between interdependent countries (see Margulis et al., 2013; World Bank & UNCTAD, 2014, 2015).

In addition to off-shore production opportunities, there is also huge potential for increased regional cooperation in the extended MENA region. Intra-regional trade could be further developed to capitalise on comparative advantages and reduce the costs of imported food. Currently, the Arab League is focussing on this domain with the long-term goal to build a region-wide customs union (IFPRI, 2016). Moreover, a number of MENA countries have committed to increase cooperative efforts in the domains of agricultural research, sustainable resource management and access to agricultural markets and investments (UNECA, 2012). The cooperative management of transboundary water resources remains a major challenge, however (see cases: Dispute over Water in the Nile Basin, Conflict over the Euphrates-Tigris and Yarmouk River: Tensions and cooperation between Syria and Jordan).

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

Influences
Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Manifest Crisis
Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation National
Resources
Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Resolution Success
Reduction in geographical scope The geographical scope of the conflict has decreased.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been partially addressed.
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


Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
0 Cooperation The Arab League has the long term goal of building a region-wide customs union. Intra-regional trade could be developed to capitalise on comparative advantages and reduce the costs of imported food.
2 Reducing dependence on specific supplies Several MENA countries have adopted a number of measures to support local producers and encourage investments in an effort to increase domestic food production capacities and reduce dependence on international markets. Furthermore, a number of MENA countries have shifted cultivation to countries with more favourable climatic conditions in order to increase overall food production capacities.
2 Containing (effects of) price volatility A number of MENA countries have adopted measures to reduce and control domestic prices, such as subsidies, and the reduction of taxes, tariffs and custom fees on food items. While these measures provide immediate relief, their use is unsustainable and bears certain long-term risks that MENA countries eventually will need to address.
2 Reducing trade barriers Several proposals have been made to strengthen multilateral provisions on export restrictions and thereby create safer and more predictable conditions for food importing countries.
0 Coping with uncertainty The success of agricultural reforms in the MENA region will depend on their capacity to tackle the technical and institutional challenges of climate adaptation and sustainable resource use.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse
Conflict References References with URL
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Topics

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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Cities

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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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Co-Benefits

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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Development

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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Energy

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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Finance

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

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

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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Security

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.

Water

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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Regions

Asia

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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Europe

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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