ECC Platform Library

 

Transboundary Water Disagreements between South Africa and Namibia

Type of conflict
Intensity 2
Region
Southern Africa
Time 1990 ‐ ongoing
Countries Namibia, South Africa
Resources Water
Conflict Summary After the independence of Namibia in 1990, a number of water-related disagreements have emerged between the Orange River riparians South Africa and Namibia....
Transboundary Water Disagreements between South Africa and Namibia
After the independence of Namibia in 1990, a number of water-related disagreements have emerged between the Orange River riparians South Africa and Namibia. These revolve around the demarcation of a common border, water allocation and water pricing, and the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). Existing water scarcity in the lower Orange River Basin is likely to be further aggravated by the impacts of climate change. Despite the conflict potential harbored by existing disagreements, the basin’s high level of institutionalized cooperation and the possibilities for intra- and inter-basin water transfers could help alleviate water stress and resolve bilateral disagreement over shared water resources.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

The Orange River has already experienced substantial seasonal and spatial variation in rainfall and evaporation rates. Precipitation is expected to decrease in the downstream areas of the basin, resulting in diminished surface runoff and groundwater recharge.

Intermediary Mechanisms

Since Namibia gained independence and aspires to develop its southern region, competition over scarce water resources have ensued between the co-riparian states. Furthermore, existing water scarcity in the lower Orange River Basin is likely to be further aggravated by the impacts of climate change, and can pose serious challenges for maintaining food security and economic development in South Africa and Namibia.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

The border delineation issue has been contested by both sides, with important implications for water use from the Orange River. Moreover, South Africa maintains that any additional water allocations to Namibia should be charged at full cost. Additionally, Namibia’s request to become more involved in the LHWP has been denied.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversChanging climate leads to decreased water availability.Economic developments place additional strains on water resources.Infrastructure development changes the allocation of water.Legal / Political interference restricts access to water resources.Freshwater becomes scarce as an essential resource. Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to tensions between states.A slow change in climatic conditions, particularly temperature and precipitation.Gradual Change in Temperature and/or PrecipitationAn increase in the scarcity of clean water and/or an increased variability in water supply.Increased Water ScarcityA broad concept to cover economic growth in general but also specific economic changes or changes of incentives.Economic DevelopmentConstruction of major infrastructure, such as dams, canals or roads.Infrastructure DevelopmentLaws and/or interventions by political actors restrict the access to natural resources.Legal / Political InterferenceReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural ResourcesTensions between states that may but need not escalate into overt violent conflict.Interstate Tensions
Context Factors
  • Water-stressed Area
  • History of Conflict
  • Inadequate Infrastructure
  • Political Transition
Conflict History

The Orange River is a vast and complex river system located within the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The basin has a size of 964,000 square kilometers, and is inhabited by 19 million people. The river is shared between Lesotho, South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia. It rises in the Lesotho highlands, where it is known as the Senqu River, and then flows 2,300 kilometers towards the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way, it is fed by a number of tributaries, most importantly the Caledon River, Vaal River, Fish River, and Molopo-Nossob River. For the last 600 kilometers before entering the Atlantic Ocean, the lower Orange River runs along the boundary between South Africa and Namibia (Sullivan, 2015).

The Orange River is by far the most important source of surface water for South Africa. The basin covers almost half of South Africa’s territory, and its water sustains most of the mining, industrial, and agricultural activities in the economic heartland of Gauteng Province, which is almost entirely dependent on the Orange system. Of the river’s total flow of 11,300 million cubic meters/year, South Africa withdraws about 63 percent, making it the largest water user among the Orange riparian states. Mostly relying on groundwater, downstream Namibia uses only 1.3 percent of the water, and upstream Lesotho, with its plentiful water supplies, withdraws a mere 0.2 percent. While Botswana is considered an Orange riparian country due to its hydrological links to the ephemeral Molopo-Nossob tributary, at present it uses none of the Orange River surface waters, since there are few inhabitants and little industrial development in its share of the basin (Heyns et al., 2008; Sullivan, 2015; Turton, 2008).

From 1915 to 1990, Namibia was under South African administration, and the lower Orange River was managed by South Africa. Consequently, there were few if any opportunities for inter-state disputes over water allocation. However, South Africa’s 75-year rule in Namibia has left behind a legacy of ambivalence in bilateral relations (Hengari & Saunders, 2014). Since Namibia gained independence and aspires to develop its southern region, a number of water-related disagreements have arisen between Namibia and South Africa. These mainly concern the location of a shared border, water allocation and pricing, and the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). Climate change has the potential to further exacerbate water scarcity, and might thereby complicate equitable and sustainable water-sharing in the basin.

Border disagreement
The Orange River forms the international border between South Africa and Namibia. However, the two countries disagree over the exact location of this border. A treaty between Britain and Germany, concluded in 1890, sets the demarcation at the high-water level of the northern bank. During the run-up to Namibia’s independence, promises were apparently made that the border would be moved from the northern bank to the middle of the Orange River. This location of the border is also enshrined in Art. 1(4) of the Namibian constitution. However, no formal agreement has ever been concluded between South Africa and Namibia that would have fixed the new border location. In 2001, the South African government reportedly informed Namibia that the colonial borders of Africa should be maintained, in accordance with the legal principle of uti possidetis (adopted by the Organisation of African Unity as well as its successor, the African Union). South Africa thus seeks to maintain the border location specified in the treaty of 1890 (Demhardt,1990; Meissner, 2001).

The border delineation has important implications for Orange water use, since the original location of the border would prevent Namibia from independently accessing the water. Moreover, the border location determines the 200 nautical sea miles boundary, which significantly affects mining prospects and opportunities for marine resource exploitation for both South Africa and Namibia (Earle et al., 2005; Meissner, 2001). Although South Africa has repeatedly emphasized that regardless of the border, it would not object to the use of Orange waters by Namibia, “…a solution to the border disagreement would be beneficial for joint basin management in the future” (Earle et al., 2005, 26).

Water allocation and pricing
At the time of Namibian independence in 1990, it was agreed that Namibia would receive a certain amount of water from existing infrastructure in South Africa to meet its water demands downstream. Namibia would receive this share of water, which it regards as its “historical allocation,” free of charge. Over the years, however, Namibia has sought to develop its southern region, and the only possibility to promote socio-economic development in the south would be by utilizing a greater share of the Orange River waters. In particular, Namibia has additional water needs for irrigation (e.g., table grapes for export), mining (e.g., zinc, diamonds), and power generation (e.g., development of the Kudu gas field). To meet these water requirements, Namibia has asked for an additional temporal allocation of water from South Africa.

South Africa has responded to this demand by suggesting that any additional water allocations to Namibia should be charged at full cost according to South African water tariffs. Also, South Africa has made clear that the “historical allocation” taken for granted by Namibia should in fact be subjected to operation and maintenance costs incurred by South Africa for water storage and regulating infrastructure on the lower Orange River (Shilomboleni, 2006). Currently, Namibia does not have its own water infrastructure on the Orange River, and in the past has benefited from the South African infrastructure without sharing the burden of its costs. In the future, it is likely that a dam tailored to the needs of Namibia will be built on the lower reaches of the Orange (Heyns et al., 2008; Sullivan, 2015).

Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP)
Given South Africa’s increasing water demands, South Africa and Lesotho in 1986 signed a treaty on the LHWP, a project which would divert water from the Lesotho highlands to Gauteng Province. Phase I of the project was completed in 2004, and the feasibility study for Phase II was completed in 2008. In 2014, construction of Phase II began.

From the start, the LHWP was portrayed as a win-win situation for both parties: While South Africa would finance the diversion scheme and buy water from Lesotho to attenuate water stress in its industrial hub, Lesotho would use the infrastructure for hydro-power generation, and the payments for raising the general living standards of its population (Wolf & Newton, 2009, 214-216).

Despite the enthusiasm surrounding the LHWP, it has also attracted a great deal of controversy, especially due to its political history and its impacts on local communities and the environment (see: "Water Coup" in Lesotho). Also, the project has caused concern on the part of South Africa’s downstream neighbor: Namibia fears that further expansion of the LHWP will reduce water availability in its southern region. In light of these concerns, the Namibian government has requested to become more involved in Phase II of the project. However, South Africa and Lesotho seem to prefer the existing bilateral mechanisms for communication and information-sharing on the LHWP. The primary reasons given for their reluctance to open the LHWP up for greater Namibian participation include the efficiency of bilateral partnerships for project implementation, the complexities of including additional states, and the belief that existing mechanisms in the basin, especially the Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM), provide sufficient possibilities for Namibian involvement (Kistin & Ashton, 2008).

Climate change
The existing disagreements surrounding water allocation in the lower Orange River Basin might be further exacerbated by the impacts of climate change. The basin has long experienced substantial seasonal and spatial variation in rainfall and evaporation rates. While annual precipitation at the source of the river (in the Lesotho highlands) is relatively high and evaporation rates are low, the opposite is true for the downstream portions of the basin. According to forecasts, the existing spatial variability will be further increased by the impacts of climatic change. Especially in downstream areas of the basin, precipitation is expected to decrease, and the resulting diminished surface runoff and groundwater recharge are likely to pose serious challenges for maintaining food security and economic development in South Africa and Namibia (Kistin & Ashton, 2008; ORASECOM, 2009).

Resolution Efforts

High level of institutional development
The Orange River Basin generally demonstrates a high level of institutionalized water cooperation (Turton, 2005). Overall, the basin states have concluded two regional water protocols, six bilateral agreements, and one basin-wide treaty. The latter provided for the establishment of ORASECOM in 2000. ORASECOM is a river basin organization which includes delegates from all four riparian countries. Its main purpose is to provide technical advice to the parties on matters related to water resources development, utilization, and conservation. In fulfilling its mandate, it is guided by the SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses, which was first passed in 1995 and then revised in 2000. The protocol defines binding rules and requirements as well as cooperation practices for water resources governance in Southern Africa, and has contributed significantly to improved water cooperation in the region (Pohl et al., 2014, 32). In addition to this multilateral framework, bilateral treaties between Namibia and South Africa concluded in 1992 have created the Permanent Water Commission (PWC) and a Joint Irrigation Authority (JIA). Among other things, these bodies can undertake investigations and negotiations, and issue recommendations with respect to water allocation.

As Heyns et al. (2008, 378) point out, “[t]he ultimate objective in the Orange would be an agreement between the basin states on the allocation of water to meet their respective water needs.” Although South Africa and Namibia have in the past engaged in such negotiations, opposing views on key issues have so far prevented the conclusion of a formal agreement on water-sharing (Shilomboleni, 2006). While multilateral and bilateral cooperation mechanisms have so far not produced a formal treaty, they have nevertheless offered a venue for joint studies and information exchange, for example on demand projections, new infrastructure, cost-sharing, and climate change (Kistin & Ashton, 2008).

For instance, to better understand and prepare for the impacts of climate change in the basin, ORASECOM commissioned a study in which researchers for the first time modelled downscaled climate change scenarios and implications for river flow in the Orange-Senqu Basin (ORASECOM, 2011). Also, a variety of flexibility mechanisms embedded within the existing Orange River agreements (e.g., related to amendment and review processes, revocation clauses, institutional responsibilities) have been found to support the basin’s adaptive capacity in dealing with the impacts of climate change (Kistin & Ashton, 2008).

Taken together, it has thus been observed that “…the Orange River Basin is the most stable international river basin in the entire SADC region, with the highest number of basin-specific regimes…” (Turton, 2008, 57). This institutional resilience has prevented water-related disagreements between South Africa and Namibia from spiraling into diplomatic or militarized crises, and has offered opportunities for cooperative dispute resolution. By providing financial and technical support, bi- and multilateral donors and development partners can make an important contribution to maintaining and further expanding this successful institutional framework in the future.

The resilience of water cooperation
This institutional resilience is illustrated by the South African-Namibian border disagreement. Although a formal resolution of this issue would be desirable, and a working group has recently been created to this effect (IBRU, 2014), the border’s continuing ambiguity has not seriously endangered the management of shared water resources. According to Heyns et al. (2008, 377), “[a]lthough there is a dispute over the exact location of this border…this does not impact negatively on water cooperation between these two countries.” In fact, “[t]here is consensus between the negotiating Parties that the border dispute is not an impediment in terms of water management and for the on-going negotiation over water allocation” (Shilomboleni, 2006, 8).

Intra- and Inter-basin water transfers
One promising and much-discussed opportunity for alleviating water stress in the lower Orange River Basin consists in the expansion of intra- and inter-basin water transfers. The expansion of the LHWP would be one opportunity for increasing intra-basin transfers, potentially also to Namibia and Botswana. If Namibia could be more strongly involved in the LHWP, opportunities for generating sustainable and equitable co-benefits for upstream and downstream areas could be explored. At present, several inter-basin transfer schemes connect the Orange with rivers such as the Limpopo, Maputo, and Thukela. Additional transfers from the Zambezi and Congo Rivers have also been debated as options for addressing water shortages in the Orange River Basin (Kistin & Ashton, 2008; Sullivan, 2015). If such schemes are implemented and operated in a sustainable and collaborative manner, they could play an important role in reducing competition over scarce water resources by enlarging the amount of water available in the Orange River Basin.

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

Influences
Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Violent Conflict No
Salience within nation National
Resources
Water
Resolution Success
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.
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
Government of South Africa
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Government of Namibia
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Government of Lesotho
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM)
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal International
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
3 Cooperation The Orange River Basin’s high level of institutionalized water cooperation (in the form of bilateral and multilateral agreements and organizations, and financial and technical support) has offered opportunities for cooperative dispute resolution. Sustainable and collaborative expansion of intra- and inter-basin water transfers could further help alleviate competition over scarce water resources.
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.
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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