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Niger Delta, Nigeria: Shell's Pollution

Type of conflict sub
Intensity 4
Region
Western Africa
Time 1950 ‐ ongoing
Countries Nigeria
Resources Fish, Biodiversity, Air (Pollution), Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Conflict Summary Shell’s oil-exploitation activities in the Niger Delta in Nigeria have been destroying the ecosystem and livelihood of the population since the 1950s. After...
Niger Delta, Nigeria: Shell's Pollution
Shell’s oil-exploitation activities in the Niger Delta in Nigeria have been destroying the ecosystem and livelihood of the population since the 1950s. After pushing for justice for years through the Nigerian judicial system, some local communities have turned their attention towards courts in the United Kingdom (UK).
Conceptual Model
Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversEconomic activity causes pollution.Pollution / Environmental degradation reduces available/usable natural resources.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources undermines resource-dependent livelihoods.Livelihood insecurity fuels grievances between groups.Livelihood insecurity leads to growing discontent with the state.A broad concept to cover economic growth in general but also specific economic changes or changes of incentives.Economic DevelopmentPollution and degradation of ecosystems, such as coral reefs.Pollution / Environmental DegradationGrowing scarcity of essential natural resources.Natural Resource ScarcityA threat or destruction of livelihoods dependent on the availability of environmental resources / goods.Livelihood InsecurityNon-violent or violent tensions and conflicts between different societal groups.Grievances between Societal GroupsChallenge to the state's legitimacy, ranging from peaceful protest to violent attempts at overthrowing the government.Anti-State Grievances
Context Factors
  • Unresponsive Government
Conflict History

The Niger Delta has one of the richest biodiversity in West Africa. Rich in fish resources and diverse in flora and fauna, it is home to a large number of ethnic groups – including the Ogonis and the Gokanas – who are dependent on the natural resources of the region for their livelihood (ICE, 1997; Collins et al., 2008). Since the 1950s, and the discovery of oil on the Ogoni territory in the Niger Delta, the methods by which Shell, supported by the Nigerian government, has been exploiting oil has come at the expense of the population and the environment. Since the 1990s, the population has been protesting to demand reparations for the damages, and the movement caught the attention of the international community in 1993. Nevertheless, Shell continued its activities, and the Nigerian Government's attempts to contain the protest movement have, inter alia, resulted in approximately 2000 fatalities between 1993 and 1999  (Nnadozie, 1996) (See Livelihood Conflicts in the Niger Delta, Nigeria). The failure of the Nigerian Government to protect its population and the international dimension of the conflict have led communities to turn to UK courts to demand reparations, which they have so far been unable to obtain through the Nigerian system.

Peaceful demonstrations against pollution

To protest against the pollution of their environment and demand reparation to Shell for the damages, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in 1990 started peaceful demonstrations under the leadership of the writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa (Obi, 2009). However, the protests did not have any impact on Shell’s activities. Despite the fact that Nigerian legislation prohibits gas flaring, Shell did not stop its practices. The circumstances under which the Nigerian Government granted the company permits to continue gas flaring were not transparent (CETIM and ERA/FoEN, 2014). Considering the major economic impact of oil on the Nigerian economy, the Nigerian Government turned a blind eye on Shell’s polluting activities and enabled it to bypass existing Nigerian environmental regulations (Ibid.).

In 1993, the conflict reached another dimension as 300,000 Ogonis gathered to protest against Shell’s activities. The high profile of the leader Ken Saro-Wiwa as well as the non-violent actions of the MOSOP raised international awareness of the movement and enabled it to attract sympathy from the international community (ICE, 1997; Naagbanton, 2014). Several international organisations denounced the harassment and killings of Ogonis operated by the Government to prevent the movement from spilling to other communities (Essential Action, 1999).

Government's repression causes strong reaction from the international community

Following this attention, Shell stopped its activities in 1993 and withdrew from Ogoniland. Nevertheless, Shell’s pipelines have continued polluting soils and waters in Ogoniland since then (Nnadozie, 1996). Whilst Saro-Wiwa continued conducting its international awareness-campaign, he was arrested by the Nigerian authorities and arbitrarily charged with murder by a federal military tribunal (ICE, 1997). Saro-Wiwa was executed in 1995 along with eight other MOSOP members, “in the purview of the country’s domestic judicial system” according to the Nigerian government (Ibid.). The execution was followed by a strong reaction from NGOs and the international community.

Amongst the sanctions imposed, Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth, the EU called to impose economic sanctions, and a number of protests were conducted by students in Nigeria and by international organisations, such as Amnesty international, abroad. The international awareness created by Saro-Wiwa and by the MOSOP on the degradation of the Ogoniland shed light on the broader environmental degradation that the numerous ethnic groups in Niger Delta are facing. On average, hundreds of spills happen in the Niger Delta every year (Vidal, 2015). In 2008 and 2009, the village of Bodo in Gokana land witnessed major oil spills into the creek. Shell subsequently repaired the pipelines but did not clean the spill (Naagbanton, 2014).

International bodies urge Nigeria to act against environmental degradation

After the international outcry which followed the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, international bodies such as the UN in 1998 and the African Commission in 2001 have published reports and conducted investigations in the Delta (Essential Action; Amnesty International, 2011). Alarmed by what the African Commission assessed as being “pollution and environmental degradation to a level humanly unacceptable”, they urged Nigeria and Shell to take actions to remedy to the environmental degradation caused (Ibid.). The election of Obasanjo as the president of Nigeria in 1996 was a turning point (Nnadozie, 1996). The President invited Ogoni representatives to Abuja and requested an environmental impact assessment to be conducted in Niger Delta (Ibid.). Meanwhile, other groups such as the Bodo Community from Gokana approached lawyers and have been pushing for justice since (Amnesty International, 2011).

Nevertheless, despite the reports and the attempts at legal resolution, neither the Nigerian Government nor Shell took actions to remedy the situation (Vidal, 2015). Even though both the Nigerian government and Shell committed to complying with the recommendations of the EIA conducted by UNEP, both are yet to engage in cleaning-up operations (Ibid.). Shell committed to stopping gas flaring in 2008, but has not put an end to its activities yet (CETIM and ERA/FoEN, 2014). It keeps postponing the deadline and blames the insecurity in the Delta caused by local communities for the delay (Ibid.). Similarly in Bodo, the population is still awaiting cleaning-up operations: “They keep telling, Shell is coming soon, but Shell has not come” (Amnesty International, 2011). In 2014, following a campaign led by the Nigeria’s civil society, Shell and the Nigerian Government pledged money and started cleaning-up operations in Ogoniland (Shoraka, 2015). Yet, it is still too early to assess the impact of these actions.

Resolution Efforts

Impediments preventing communities from getting reparations

Despite several reports led by international organisations and legal efforts by the affected communities to receive reparations from Shell, the polluter could not yet be compelled to take action. Several factors can explain why:



1) First comes the failure of the international community to apply the sanctions imposed on Nigeria after 1995 (Human Rights Watch, 1999). For instance, although the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) recommended sanctions against Nigeria, the country was only suspended from the Commonwealth but was not expelled (Ibid.). As for the European Union, the European Parliament called for an oil embargo on Nigeria; nonetheless no sanctions were adopted after 1995 (Ibid.).

2) The second factor relates to the judiciary in Nigeria. It is often very costly for communities to go to court, there are often delays and Nigerian courts have faced problems in trying to compel Shell to disclose information (Amnesty International, 2011). Moreover, Nigerian law states that oil companies must pay compensation to communities for the damages they cause unless the spills have been caused by sabotage (Ibid.). Shell used this argument and attributed the spills in Ogoniland and in Bodo “to unknown third parties” (Ibid.). Above all, as a source from an oil company revealed, Nigerian courts have the tendency to side with oil companies (Vidal, 2015).

3) The last impediment to action concerns the Nigerian Government’s capacity. Not only has the Nigerian government failed to ensure that Shell abides by the Nigerian environmental regulations, the government is also lacking the practical skills to enforce the EIA requirements (Collins et al., 2008). These hindering factors, coupled with the lack of trust of the population towards Shell and the Government, have made the communities understand that they would not be able to secure “adequate compensation” from the Nigerian system (Amnesty International, 2011). In fact, it was only when communities in Bodo approached lawyers in the UK in 2009 that Shell agreed to negotiate - the company had never replied to any of the grievances from the communities’ Nigerian lawyers (Ibid.). Shell blamed the communities and argued that spills were caused by oil theft, whereas investigations by various civil society organisations denied these accusations. (Shoraka, 2015). The awareness of the drawbacks in the Nigerian system and the lack of trust in Shell’s assessments and reports led the communities to turn to UK courts (Ibid.).

UK courts sentence Shell to pay reparations

In January 2015, a UK court ruled in favour of the communities and sentenced Shell to pay £55 million to the Bodo population to compensate them for the two oil spills which destroyed their livelihood (Ibid.). The case of the Bodo population is only one out of many and justice has not been done to all communities in the region. However, this trial marks a turning point in years of impunity for Shell. The decision creates a precedent and led to similar decisions in the rest of the Delta. It arrives in the year of the 20th anniversary of the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, which organisations aim to use to push for further actions (Ibid.). The combined effect could lead to an acceleration of clean-up operations in the Niger Delta. According to the UNEP EIA report, thirty years would be necessary to ensure recovery of the ecosystem (UNEP, 2011).

To conclude, after years pushing for justice, one ethnic group – from Bodo – has created a new turning point by appealing to the UK justice to settle the long-lasting conflict with Shell. Whilst the population did not succeed in receiving reparations from the Nigerian system, the UK court of justice sentenced Shell to compensate the Bodo community for the destruction of their livelihood. This puts an end to years of pollution if the region with impunity and could pave the way to an acceleration of clean-up operations in the Delta.

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

Influences
Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Diplomatic Crisis No diplomatic crisis
Fatalities
2 000
Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation Regional
Mass Displacement Less than 100.000 and less than 10% of the country's population are displaced within the country.
Cross Border Mass Displacement No
Resources
Fish, Biodiversity, Air (Pollution), Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Resolution Success
Reduction in Violence Violence reduced significantly, but did not cede.
Resolve of displacement problems Displacement continues to cause discontent and/or other problems.
Reduction in geographical scope There has been no reduction in geographical scope.
Increased capacity to address grievance in the future The capacity to address grievances in the future has increased.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been mostly addressed.
Causal Attribution of Decrease in Conflict Intensity Decrease in conflict intensity at least partially the result of conflict resolution strategies.
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


Actors
Participation Conflict Party     Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Federal Republic of Nigeria Government
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Niger Delta Communities
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Shell Petroleum
Functional GroupCommercial
Geographical ScaleExternal
United Kingdom Courts of Justice
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
1 Mediation & arbitration Following the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the leader of the Ogoni movement, by the Nigerian authorities, the country was suspended from the Commonwealth and the EU called to impose economic sanctions. The international community urged Nigeria and Shell to take actions to remedy the environmental degradation in the area. However, the international community failed to apply said sanctions and neither the Nigerian Government nor Shell took actions to remedy the situation.
2 Compensation Due to the weak judiciary system in Nigeria, affected communities did not receive reparations from Shell despite several legal efforts. Thus, one ethnic group appealed to the UK justice to settle the long-lasting conflict with Shell. The UK court of justice eventually sentenced Shell to compensate the Bodo community for the destruction of their livelihood.
1 Environmental restoration & protection There have been a series of attempts towards environmental restauration as a result of public and international pressure. In 2008, Shell committed to stopping gas flaring, but has not yet put an end to its activities. After the village of Bodo witnessed major oil spills, Shell repaired the pipelines but did not clean up the spill. Finally, in 2014 Shell and the Nigerian government pledged money and started cleaning-up operations in Ogoniland. The impacts of these actions have not yet been assessed. A strengthening of the government’s capacity is imperative in order to ensure that Shell abides by Nigerian environmental regulations.
3 Promoting social change The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) started peaceful demonstrations in 1990, demanding reparation from Shell for the pollution damages to their environment. The conflict gained international attention in 1993 when 300,000 Ogonis gathered to protest. Several international organizations denounced the harassment and killings of Ogonis by Nigerian authorities. Following this attention, Shell stopped its activities in 1993 and withdrew from Ogoniland. Nevertheless, Shell’s pipelines have continued polluting soils and waters in Ogoniland.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Character of the contested good Common-pool resource: No one can be excluded from use but the good is depleted.
Structure of decision-making power / interdependence Asymmetric: The power to affect the environmental resource is unequal.
Broad conflict characterization Resource capture is not present.
Ecological marginalization is not present.
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse
Conflict References References with URL
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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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