ECC Platform Library


Poor water provision drives Taliban recruitment in Afghanistan

Type of conflict
Intensity 4
Time 2001 ‐ ongoing
Countries Afghanistan
Resources Water
Conflict Summary Political neglect, ideology and economic hardship drive recruitment for the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. As rural communities depend heavily on water...
Poor water provision drives Taliban recruitment in Afghanistan
Political neglect, ideology and economic hardship drive recruitment for the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. As rural communities depend heavily on water for their livelihoods, pressures on resources due to over extraction, deficient infrastructures, and mismanagement, but also to climate changes, are likely to contribute to the conditions that facilitate recruitment by the Taliban.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

Climate Change is believed to have an intensifying effect on extreme weather events in Afghanistan. This could lead to prolonged and more intense dry-seasons and more severe drought events, straining natural water resources.

Intermediary Mechanisms

Damaged or deficient irrigation and water treatment infrastructure, and mismanagement put considerable pressure on the water sector and the rural livelihoods it supports. Lacking non-agricultural economic alternatives and effective support from the state, poor, water-dependent rural households are most severely affected.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

Livelihood insecurity leads to mistrust towards the central authority, which results in a weakened state, which, consequently, consolidates livelihood insecurity. Public authorities are perceived as weak and enjoy little support and trust, especially in rural areas. Combined with a lack of economic opportunities, this creates favourable conditions for insurgents to recruit young rural Afghans.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversMore frequent/intense extreme weather events lead to decreased water availability.Freshwater becomes scarce as an essential resource. Water scarcity undermines water-dependent livelihoods.Livelihood insecurity reveals lacking capacity of the state to manage crises.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources augments the risk of crime, violence, and extremism.Reduced capacity and/or legitimacy of the state compounds fragility.Livelihood insecurity augments the risk of crime, violence, and extremism.An increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.More Frequent / Intense Extreme Weather EventsAn increase in the scarcity of clean water and/or an increased variability in water supply.Increased Water ScarcityReduced availability of 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 LegitimacyThe 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 / ExtremismA reduced ability of the state to fulfil basic functions.Weakened State
Context Factors
  • Dysfunctional Resource Management
  • Inadequate Infrastructure
  • Low Level of Economic Development
  • Weak Institutions
  • History of Conflict
  • Lack of Alternative Livelihoods
  • Weak Institutions
Conflict History

Decades of civil war and military intervention have left Afghanistan in a desolate condition. In rural areas, making up nearly 70% of the Afghan population, roads, schools, medical facilities, and other infrastructures are often either absent, of poor quality, or at the hands of the Taliban (Leao et al., 2018). This undermines the legitimacy of the Afghan government and strengthens the Taliban insurgency (Johnson & Mason, 2007).

The military and police, solely responsible for upholding state authority since the end of the ISAF mission in 2014, struggle to hold controlled territory and have difficulties filling up their ranks, whilst suffering high casualties. The Taliban, on the other hand, find it much easier to recruit new fighters, especially in rural areas (Jones, 2015), giving them the ability to wage a tiring war on the Afghan government. The reasons for young men to join the Taliban are diverse but often connected to either religion and ideology, or political neglect and a lack of economic opportunities (Johnson & Mason, 2007). The latter often stem from poor service provision, especially in rural areas, and limited access to water resources.

Climate models for the end of this century predict a future reduction in water resources in Afghanistan, which would add to the above challenges and might create further recruitment opportunities for insurgent groups.

Lacking economic perspectives drive recruitment for the Taliban
Many Taliban fighters are religiously or ideologically motivated. These men usually serve as full-time fighters and are indoctrinated in religious boarding schools, often in the Afghan-Pakistan border region. Anti-imperialistic (especially anti-American) grievances are usually paired with religious fundamentalism. However many join for pragmatic, economic or circumstantial reasons. Abuse of civilians, body-searches on women and other hostile actions by governmental forces and government-friendly militias are further drivers of radicalisation (Jones, 2015; Landinfo, 2017).

Others join the insurgency because they are suffering from poverty and poor access to basic services such as electricity and water. For many young Afghans economic prospects remain bleak, especially in rural areas where 53% of youth are illiterate (Leao et al., 2018). Corruption, ineffective administration, insecurity, and destruction of property due to continued fighting in some areas further compound this problem. It is estimated that one in five Afghans aged between 15 and 24 years is unemployed (Leao et al., 2018; Transparency International, 2018). Agriculture, which is the main activity in rural areas, is unreliable, due (among other reasons) to low selling prices, persistent insecurity, and destroyed irrigation infrastructure (Leao et al., 2018).

Joining the Taliban becomes a viable option under these circumstances; even more so than joining the national army or police (Jones, 2015). Pay for soldiers of the afghan national army and police is irregular and sometimes lower than salaries for Taliban fighters (Landinfo, 2017). Many Taliban supporters are recruited on a ‘part-time basis’ which means that they would “(…) ‘fight for a couple of hours in the morning’ and then go home for other activities – ‘in the field or in the bazaar’ (…)” (Landinfo, 2017).

Furthermore, trust in the government as a provider of security and essential services is eroded in many rural areas as a result of corruption and poorly performing public administrations. Afghanistan ranks 172/180 on the Corruption Perception Index (Transparency International, 2018). This creates further incentives for joining the Taliban. In particular, this is visible in the water sector, where poor planning and deficient irrigation infrastructure exacerbate economic hardship and anti-state grievances (Jones, 2015; Johnson & Mason, 2006).

Poor access to water and deficient infrastructure
Water is essential to rural livelihoods in Afghanistan, since the country’s economy relies heavily on agriculture and related sectors, such as food processing, -trade, and agro-industry (Leao et al., 2018). Farming is usually also the primary source of income for people who return to their villages after having fled violence during the civil war. Yet the absence or poor condition of irrigation infrastructure, often a result of the war, is a major challenge for them (Majidyar, 2018; Burt & Keiru, 2014; McCarthy & Mustafa, 2014). In fact, Kuonqui et al., (2011) estimate that the amount of irrigated surfaces in Afghanistan fell from about 3 million hectares in the 1970’s to 1.8 million hectares in 2011.

Deficient infrastructure and access to water also lead to sanitary and health problems. Despite significant reconstruction efforts in the water sector only 40% of the rural and 71% of the urban population had access to safe drinking water in 2016 (USAID, 2016). A significant share of income is lost as a result. As a villager explains: “Half of our income every year is spent on doctors and medicine because we are always getting sick with stomach complaints and diarrhea” (Burt & Keiru, 2014). This contributes to the conditions that facilitate recruitment by the Taliban.

Water management as a key challenge
Formal and customary institutions struggle to address the above problems, which is further undermining trust in the state and customary resource management. 

While urban water resource management is organised by water boards and respective municipalities, management in rural regions of Afghanistan is often handled by customary authorities. The so called Mirab are traditionally responsible for administering water distribution, overseeing local water infrastructure maintenance, and resolving disputes. The Mirab further allocate rights to tap water, usually based on users’ participation in construction and maintenance (Reich & Pearson, 2013).

The patchy and incomplete implementation of formal water management frequently combined with a lack of understanding of the customary system among government officials result in confusion about the distribution of tasks and responsibilities between formal and informal water management institutions. Ultimately, this undermines both (McCarthy & Mustafa, 2014).

Since the national government was virtually absent from many rural areas during the civil war, customary water allocation institutions have often been co-opted or violated by warlords. This has further undermined the capacity of customary systems and is impeding effective water management to this day (McCarthy & Mustafa, 2014).

Another major disadvantage in management capacity and effectivity building is the lack of hydrological data. Data collection was already difficult in pre-war times but became close to impossible during the three decades of war (Palmer-Moloney, 2011; Campbell, 2015).

The aggravating potential of climate change
Challenges to the water sector in Afghanistan could be amplified by climate change. Predictions show that temperatures in Afghanistan will rise by 3°C to 7°C by 2100 leading to scarcity of water and desertification in arid and semi-arid areas. Unpredictable seasonal water flow patterns due to changes in glacier melt could lead to more extreme weather events such as floods and droughts. By augmenting pressure on water resources and undermining rural livelihoods, climate change could thus accelerate the vicious cycle of poverty, recruitment, and violence (Bishop et al., 2014; Scherer & Taenzler, 2018).

Resolution Efforts

The above explanations suggest that improvements in water availability and management through infrastructure and legal frameworks, including measures to increase the overall resilience of the water sector, can have a positive impact on the ongoing insurgency. It could strengthen rural Afghans’ livelihoods and trust in the government and thus slow down recruitment by the Taliban.

Addressing water issues in rural development
Water issues in Afghanistan are addressed foremost in the National Solidarity Program (NSP), the main development tool of the Afghan government in rural areas. The program started in 2003 and aims to promote community-based development through the establishment of a network of community development councils (CDC) and allocation of funds for governance and infrastructure projects (Black, 2017) Infrastructure development and the strengthening of local governance mechanisms are key goals of the NSP. The program further aims to prevent possible conflicts and promotes cooperation between customary leaders and public administrations. Water management is a key concern due to the resource’s importance for rural livelihoods (Palmer-Moloney, 2011; McCarthy & Mustafa, 2014).

Building institutional capacity
Since 2001, the Afghan government is developing a decentralized Integrated Water Resource Management approach that promotes the participation of local leaders in decision making processes. It has established an institutional framework for water use around a newly created Supreme Council for Water Affairs Management (SCWAM) and its associated technical secretariat, which are responsible for developing and implementing the government’s water sector strategy. The Afghan government has further supported the creation of basin agencies, provincial development/management committees, and different advisory boards. Legally, the water management is regulated by a new Water Law from 2009 (Afghan Ministry of Justice, 2009; Shroder & Ahmadzai, 2016), which supersedes any previous laws.

Yet, corruption remains a major challenge. According to Transparency International, Afghanistan has made no progress towards reaching Target 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which includes tackling corruption (Transparency International, 2018). Afghanistan’s anti-corruption measures are largely viewed as inefficient or not existent, where even anti-corruption officials are believed to be compromised by corrupt networks (Tiefer, 2018).

Irrigation infrastructure and water management
To improve the condition of water infrastructures, numerous projects of varying scale have been conducted, of which many are part of the NSP program or supported by it. One of the most important projects for infrastructure restoration is the Irrigation Restoration and Development Project launched by the Afghan government in 2011 and cofounded by the World Bank (AF IRDP). The project aims to improve small scale irrigation infrastructure. Besides international institutions such as the World Bank, UNICEF, the Asian Development Bank and others, NGO participation in redevelopment is high. Between 2010 and 2014 alone 891 international and local NGOs were active in Afghanistan, of which 158 were active in the field of WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), and 147 in infrastructure (Mitchell, 2017).  For example, the Japanese NGO JEN has been active for a number of years and involved in the construction of water pipes and sanitation projects (JEN-NPO).

Other initiatives aim at strengthening water management institutions. An example is a joint program for knowledge-exchange between the United States Department of Agriculture (foreign agriculture service) and the Afghan Ministry for Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock .Within this program, US-American irrigation management experts conducted workshops in effective management of irrigation in high altitude water abundant areas (as in Colorado, USA and Afghanistan) for their Afghan counterparts (Reich & Pearson, 2013).

Improving hygiene and sanitation
Numerous NGOs contribute towards hygiene and disease resilience. The British NGO Tearfund, for example, operates in several provinces using social marketing approaches to promote household treatment systems, sanitation facilities and hygiene behaviour improvement. They promoted bio sand filters and trained local artisans to manufacture sand filters to meet local demand and held workshops on personal hygiene and bacterial/viral infections (Burt & Keiru, 2014).

International organisations such as UNICEF, the WHO, and the Red Cross are present in Afghanistan and help improving disease resilience through e.g. chlorination of shallow wells and distribution of chlorine tablets and medical equipment, as well as health and water hygiene education (Kakar et al., 2008).

A large number of small, village scale, WASH projects is bundled within the Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene project, a 30 million USD initiative jointly launched in 2016 by UNICEF, USAID, and the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (USAID Water Team, 2018).

Although much has been achieved, water and sanitation remain important challenges in Afghanistan.

Climate Change adaption
Few international projects directly address the effects of climate change. Nonetheless efforts exist, such as the “Building adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change” project (2013-2017), which is cofounded by UNEP and the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF). The program aims at strengthening institutional capacity and building sustainable water infrastructure, as well as hydrological data collection to support risks mitigation in the water sector (UNFCCC).

Another major program was conducted by United Nation Development Program (UNDP), building government capacity to integrate risk and impact assessments into development plans at the local level in four provinces. It further trained locals in disaster response and promoted climate-resilient crops among other measures. The project was cofounded by the Asian Development Bank among others (UNDP 2016).

Resilience to climate change is further strengthened by national programmes like the NSP and the Irrigation and Restoration Development Project, which build institutional capacity for disaster response and support flood and drought control through the rehabilitation of weirs, reservoirs and channels. Yet, lacking capacity and expertise still make it difficult to implement those plans (Heinrich Boell Stiftung, 2016).  

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.
Resolution Success
Reduction in Violence There was no reduction in violence.
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.
General opencollapse
Country Data in Comparison
ConflictNoData Created with Sketch.

Participation Conflict Party     Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Government of Afghanistan
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Functional GroupNon-State Violent Actor
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
2 Humanitarian & Development aid International institutions and national developmental aid agencies like USAID or GIZ and a large number of NGOs support the Afghan government in its effort to improve rural water infrastructures and -management.
2 Social inclusion & empowerment Afghanistan’s National Solidarity Program (NSP) provides for the creation of Community Development Councils, which facilitate the participation of community representatives in local development planning.
2 Improving state capacity & legitimacy Major reforms have been conducted by the government since 2001. Advisory boards, Community Councils and respective courts have been established to manage water issues.
2 Improving infrastructure & services Many state and non-state organisations are involved in the construction and rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure, including the instalment of wells and pumps and construction of pipe networks.
1 Improving actionable information Some efforts have been made to improve hydrological data collection, but much remains yet to be accomplished; especially in terms of building necessary capacities in afghan agencies. Hydrological data are indispensable for efficient water management and thus should receive greater attention.
1 Improving resource efficiency Afghan water management representatives and farmers are being trained in efficient irrigation techniques.
2 Mitigating impacts on health Many development projects in Afghanistan focus on Water Sanitation and Health (WASH) and aim at improving hygiene standards to combat infections and spreading diseases. E.g. small scale water filters are being handed out and local artisans are trained to manufacture more of them.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
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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