ECC Platform Library


Protest against the Senhuile-Senethanol project in Senegal

Type of conflict main
Intensity 2
Time 2011 ‐ ongoing
Countries Senegal
Resources Agricultural / Pastoral Land
Conflict Summary Large scale agribusiness projects in Senegal engendered protests from villagers and pastoralists occupying the land who already face pressures from the...
Protest against the Senhuile-Senethanol project in Senegal
Large scale agribusiness projects in Senegal engendered protests from villagers and pastoralists occupying the land who already face pressures from the effects of climate change and political marginalisation. One example of such conflicts is over the "Senhuile-Senethanol project", where investment in biofuels linked to European markets for low carbon energy provoked strong resistance.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

Climate change could alter conditions in the area and the Sahel region in general, where extreme weather events such as droughts and floods are projected to increase with greater climatic variability

Intermediary Mechanisms

Decreasing accessibility to land and water resources in turn, threatens the livelihoods of local farmers, and pastoralists. These dynamics are compounded by changing climatic conditions.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

Communities affected by the land deals are rarely involved in the decision making process. Supported by national and international environmental organizations, local communities protest and resist large-scale land acquisitions. Moreover, long-standing conflicts between local communities were often exacerbated by the overall reduction of available resources.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversChanging climate decreases available land.More frequent/intense extreme weather events reduce available land.Economic developments lead to changes in land use.Economic activity causes pollution.Environmental policies encourage land use change.Changes in land use reduce available/usable land.Land scarcity hampers agricultural production.Pollution / Environmental degradation reduces available/usable natural resources.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources reduces available resources and ecosystem services.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources provokes discontent with the state.A slow change in climatic conditions, particularly temperature and precipitation.Gradual Change in Temperature and/or PrecipitationReduced availability of/ access to land.Increased Land ScarcityAn increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.More Frequent / Intense Extreme Weather EventsA broad concept to cover economic growth in general but also specific economic changes or changes of incentives.Economic DevelopmentA change in the usage of environmentally relevant land.Land Use ChangePollution and degradation of ecosystems, such as coral reefs.Pollution / Environmental DegradationImplementation of environmental/climate policies, such as REDD+, climate adaptation or the promotion of crop-based biofuel development.Environmental / Climate PoliciesReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural ResourcesGrowing scarcity of essential natural resources.Natural Resource ScarcityChallenge to the state's legitimacy, ranging from peaceful protest to violent attempts at overthrowing the government.Anti-State Grievances
Context Factors
  • Insecure Land Tenure
  • Political Marginalization
Conflict History

Large scale agribusiness projects in Senegal engendered protests from villagers and pastoralists occupying the land who already face pressures from the effects of climate change and political marginalisation. One example of such a situation is the Senhuile-Senethanol project, where investments in biofuels linked to European markets for low carbon energy provoked strong resistance.

Tensions over biofuel production in northern Senegal
The project was first initiated in 2010/11 by Senethanol SA, a joint venture of investors based in Dakar, the USA and Italy (Grain, 2018). In 2011, twenty thousand hectares were leased to grow sweet potatoes for biofuel production in the Fanaye district. The local government approved the project without the consultation or participation of villagers living in the area, characterising the land as underused and unproductive. After local protests, national campaigns and a violent clash in October of the same year, twenty villagers were injured and two were killed. In response, the project was postponed and later relocated through two high level rulings by former president Abdoulaye Wade.

In 2012, the current president Macky Sall, reaffirmed the decrees to go ahead with the project in a new plot of twenty thousand hectares in the Ndiael Nature reserve, parts of which are classified as an endangered wetland safeguarded by the RAMSAR convention. Again there was a lack of consultation and participation of communities living in the area.

The Government eventually issued a land lease lasting fifty years to the biofuel initiative after the status of the protected forest, wetland and rangeland was downgraded to accommodate the project. In 2014, a change in management led to a short-lived aim to produce sunflowers for European markets. A further management change in 2016 led to the development of crops for local markets.

Later that year, the governor of the area downscaled the project to half its size, the motivations for this are not clear (Prause, 2016). It could be due to social movement pressure or the wishes of Senhuile Senethanol, the two reasons may not be mutually exclusive. The permanence of the downscaling is uncertain. That said, it is expected that the state will grant more control over land to the Senhuile Senethanol and future developments for the remaining land are anticipated. 

Aside from the dispute over land rights, the project continues to generate strong opposition due to allegations of corruption and reports that numerous children drowned in insecure irrigation channels (Jitendra, 2015). As it stands, the venture is being instigated by Tampieri Financial Group and Senethanol SA (Grain, 2018). 

On January 22, 2019 inhabitants of villages affected by the Senhuile Senethanol project marched to demand definitive legal rights to land access, announcing a memorandum to President Macky Sall to commit to issuing legally binding land rights to communities before the next elections (Ndarinfo, 2019).

Land reforms, marginalisation, and anti-state sentiment
National policies for land use planning promoting agribusiness to boost economic growth have led to the marginalization of previously held rights to resources and alienation of rural inhabitants. At the same time projects have not adequately incorporated communities into planning processes. This suggests a need for greater consultation and participation of all stakeholders and clarity on legal access rights.

These policies were highly influenced by actors such as the World Bank, who aided governments in designing national plans to increase economic efficiency and food security regarding land use such as the Agricultural markets and Agribusiness development project (World Bank, 2009). This project among others were implemented at the level of the national government, suggesting a need for consultation and participation in higher level planning processes often inaccessible to affected groups.

Pastoralists across the Sahel region face multiple pressures from current land reform policies. These include decreased mobility, insecure land tenure and resultant reduction in access to pasture and water. This puts an added strain on commons and available resources and increases the likelihood of conflict between land users while adding to anti-state/corporate sentiment.

Discourses of underused or unexploited land and its representation within maps and other documents have encouraged land tenure reforms that have in effect marginalised Agro-pastoralist previously held rights to access and control over land (Crane & Meunier, 2018). Furthermore, recommendations to use fertile northern lands for agribusiness, (World Bank, 2009, 2015) prioritised these developments at the expense of local Agro-pastoralists. This can be seen in both national government policy, and local land allocations specific to the Senhuile-Senethanol project. In government approved project plans and maps, 31 out of 37 villages located within the proposed land lease were not indicated, adding to the characterisation of the land as underused (Prause, 2016).

Potential for aggravation in the wake of climate change
Climate change has also put pressure on the area and the Sahel region in general, where extreme weather events such as droughts and floods are projected to increase with greater climatic variability (USAID, 2017). This will affect both rainfed agriculture and livestock. Rising temperatures increase the risk of depleted total freshwater resources, while reduced groundwater recharge may combine with pollution from agribusiness to negatively impact water quality. The average temperature is projected to increase by 1.1 to 3.1˚C by the 2060s. The projected rate of warming is even faster in the interior regions, where the Senhuile-Senethanol project is located (McSweeney et al., 2012). This will increase pressures on resources and could worsen tensions around this and similar projects.

A broader push for biofuel production in Senegal
In the context of multiple economic and environmental, and food crises over the past decade, large scale land acquisitions primarily in the global south have increased dramatically (Prause, 2016; Land Matrix, 2019; see also case on global land grabbing). In Sub Saharan Africa, biofuels make up the majority of these investments (Giovanetti, 2012). Both national and international policies relating to the promotion of biofuels are based on arguments surrounding food and energy security often echoing influential institutions such as the UN and World Bank.

In Senegal the total area leased or sold to agribusiness is estimated to be between two 250 and 800 hectares (Land Matrix, 2019; Prause, 2016). The land in the north of the country, which is used mainly by Pastoralists, is particularly attractive for such investments due to both fertile soils and its proximity to water resources from both the Senegal River and Lac de Guiers.  The Senegalese Network against Land Grabbing (Cadre de Réflextion et d’Action sur le Foncier au Sénégal) has outlined the risks to waterbodies associated with projects such as Senhuile-Senethanol. These include pollution from fertilisers and irrigation related to reduction of wetlands, a landscape necessary for migratory birdlife. They also highlight the many unfulfilled commitments to local people and the marginalization of their customary rights to land access and control.

Resolution Efforts

Corporate Social Responsibility
Following its relocation to Ndiael the Senhuile-Senethanol project later included a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) component, possibly to avoid similar protests to those which occurred in Fanaye). Several promises were made including the construction schools, places of worship, health centres, and sports infrastructure. So far only one school was built. The company implementing the project also promised improved access within the peripheral allocated to the company and claim to have donated animal feed. However, a community representative described the amount of grain given as a pittance in comparison to lost land. Furthermore affected villagers have no guarantee to continued future access to grazing land and there are no sanctions for non-compliance, meaning the company can detract or alter promises at any time (Benegiamo & Cirillo, 2014).

These efforts have largely been unsuccessful in mitigating conflict due to a lack of realistic assessment about the impacts of the project, clear legally binding commitment to providing and benefit-sharing, as well as meaningful consulation and participation in the design of the project.  This led to the infringement of rights and access to resources and resultant resistance from affected communities.

According to requirements under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, corporations have an obligation to respect human rights throughout their operations. However, these are not binding under international law (UNOHCHR, 2011; 1). So far corporate social responsibility (CSR) measures carried out by Senethanol SA such as an environmental and social impact study (EIES) and promises made to communities have not changed either the public view of the project or brought meaningful long term legal concessions to grant communities land access. Despite the company’s promises to build schools, provide jobs and grant temporary access to herders, the (CSR) cannot be considered to have mitigated the projects impact or the grievances of villagers.

Social mobilisation against large scale land acquisitions
Grass roots initiatives and NGOs in Senegal have had mixed results in reshaping land use policies and stopping projects such as the Senhuile-Senethanol project. To date, the Senegalese network of NGOs against land grabbing (Cadre de Réflextion et d’Action sur le Foncier au Sénégal) managed to stop or delay some land transactions. For example following a nationwide campaign, a high court decision temporarily postponed a land acquisition in the community of Diokoul (Acquino, 2013). The organisation is also involved in a wider campaign for land reform which would counteract the precarity of local framers and pastoralists, by preventing leasing of state owned land to private companies.  The strategy of national NGOs to oppose the Senhuile-senethanol project was also highly successful in mobilising international support from NGOs such as GRAIN, ActionAid, and the Oakland institute putting further pressure on the government and company implementing the project.

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

Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation Municipal
Mass Displacement None
Cross Border Mass Displacement No
Agricultural / Pastoral Land
Resolution Success
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

Participation Conflict Party     Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Government of Senegal
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Cade de Réflextion et d’Action sur le Foncier au Sénégal (CRAFS)
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Tampieri Financial Group
Functional GroupCommercial
Geographical ScaleInternal International
Pastoralists (Sahel)
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Local Communities
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
1 Compensation Compensation as well as jobs were promised to affected communities, however there is no evidence to suggest this promise was fulfilled.
1 Environmental restoration & protection Promises relating to an environmental and social impact study were made, however so far this has not changed either the public view of the project or any concessions or changes to access and ownership of land (Actionaid, 2014). The conflict is ongoing although around half of the land set aside for the development is currently being used for biofuels and other crops with future developments for the remaining land being anticipated. (Jitendra, 2015).
2 Promoting social change Through various media campaigns and demonstratrations, social movements and NGOs had mixed results in reshaping land use policies and stopping projects. To date, the national network of NGOs against land grabbing (Cade de Réflextion et d’Action sur le Foncier au Sénégal) has managed to stop some land transactions, while delaying others. On January 22 2019 inhabitants of villages marched to demand definitive legal rights to land access issuing a memorandum to President Macky Sall to commit to issuing legally binding land rights to communities before the next elections.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Structure of decision-making power / interdependence Asymmetric: The power to affect the environmental resource is unequal.
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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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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Environment & Migration

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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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