ECC Platform Library


Local Violence over Water Resources in Yemen

Type of conflict main
Intensity 4
Western Asia
Time 1990 ‐ ongoing
Countries Yemen
Resources Water
Conflict Summary Since the start of deep well drilling in the 1970s, Yemen’s groundwater resources have diminished at a rapid pace - fostered by state subsidies and the...
Local Violence over Water Resources in Yemen
Since the start of deep well drilling in the 1970s, Yemen’s groundwater resources have diminished at a rapid pace - fostered by state subsidies and the absence of effective regulation. Consequently, competition for the precious resource has intensified and led to numerous, highly localised conflicts between individuals, tribal groups, and villages.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

Due to the absence of perennial rivers, agriculture in Yemen is mainly rain-fed. However, Yemen is experiencing a notable reduction in its yearly average rainfall.

Intermediary Mechanisms

Currently, nearly 14 out of 16 aquifers are depleted in Yemen. It is projected that Yemen will be among the 16 most water stressed countries of the world in 2040.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

Local disputes over the distribution of water and land between individuals, tribal groups, and villages are spreading and often turn violent, taking the lives of nearly 4,000 people per year.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversChanging climate leads to decreased water availability.In-migration leads to demographic change.Demographic changes increase pressures on available water resources.Demographic changes increase pressures on available land resources.Economic developments place additional strains on water resources.Economic activity causes pollution.Freshwater becomes scarce as an essential resource. Land scarcity hampers agricultural production.Pollution reduces available/usable freshwater.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to distributive conflicts between societal groups.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 ScarcityVoluntary or involuntary movement of people from one area to another.Migration patternsChange in population density, age structure, or ethnic makeup.Demographic ChangeReduced availability of/ access to land.Increased Land ScarcityA 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 DegradationReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural ResourcesNon-violent or violent tensions and conflicts between different societal groups.Grievances between Societal Groups
Context Factors
  • Water-stressed Area
  • Weak Institutions
  • History of Conflict
  • Low Level of Economic Development
  • Proliferation of Weapons
  • Weak Institutions
Conflict History

Numerous experts predict Yemen to run dry very soon, as the first country in the world (Hill, 2008; IRIN, 2010; Jamjoom & Somra, 2010; Lichtenthäler, 2010). Whilst water availability is rapidly decreasing as a consequence of mismanagement, overexploitation and climate change, local disputes over the distribution of water and land are spreading and often turn violent, taking the lives of nearly 4,000 people per year (Whitehead, 2015).

Dwindling water resources
Owing to the absence of perennial rivers, agriculture in Yemen is mainly rain-fed, with about 75% of rural communities depending directly on rainwater for growing crops and keeping livestock (Wilson Center, 2011). Yet, the discovery of deep well drilling in the 1970s has triggered a steep increase of irrigated agriculture. In 30 years, the irrigated area increased 13 fold (Haidera et al., 2011), with about 40% of utilised water resources being supplied by deep groundwater aquifers (Lichtenthäler, 2010). Currently, the water table is falling between one and eight meters per year (UNFCCC, 2013), forcing new wells to be drilled ever deeper up to 800m depths. This has, in effect, given rise to groundwater salinization and pollution (Al-Asbahi, 2005; Ward, 2009), and depleted nearly 14 out of the country’s 16 aquifers (Wikileaks, 2009).

This development has not been accompanied by sound policies and sustainable water management. In absence of effective state regulation unlicensed private wells have mushroomed, and competition for dwindling groundwater resources has increased, leading to the exploitation of aquifers beyond recharge rates. One of the water ministry’s senior hydrologists comments: “I see unlicensed drilling rigs as mobile artillery batteries, and the tankers that distribute the groundwater as missiles landing in every neighbourhood” (Ferguson, 2015). Despite the introduction of a licensing system in 2003, today only about 2% of wells are registered and over 90% of well drillings are unlicensed (Stratfor, 2014). Implementation of the system is hampered by vested interests of high level officials.
Eager to win popular support and accommodate powerful elites, the Yemeni government has further introduced agricultural and fuel subsidies, thereby encouraging the expansion of water-intensive “cash-crops” such as citrus, bananas, pomegranates or qat (Ward, 2009; Haidera et al., 2011).

Pressures on local water resources are further compounded by a fast growing population (2.5% per year (CIA, 2015)), and a notable reduction in average rainfall (9% per decade since 1990 (McSweeny, New & Lizcano, 2010). Although Yemen has always been a dry country, its current water availability (120m³/capita/year) is lower than ever and far below the threshold of “water scarcity”, set at 1000m³/capita/year by the World Bank (Wilson Center, 2011). Given current consumption patterns, Yemen is projected to be among the 16 most water stressed countries of the world in 2040 (WRI, 2015).

Local conflicts and inter-communal violence over water
Progressing water scarcity intensifies competition and increases societal tensions. In combination with an environment permissive to the use of force, disputes over water can heat up quickly. In Yemen, weapons are easily accessible and almost every second citizen owns a small arm (Hales, 2010a). Particularly the rural society is “generally…arms bearing, and resort to violence frequent” (Ward, 2009). Accordingly, Zeitoun (2009) has commented that “the use of firearms as both explosive and deterrent power may be nowhere in the world more prevalent in the water sector than in Yemen”.

Conflicts over water are carried out on various levels. Sometimes, only between few individuals, e.g. when a villager builds a well more proximate to another villager’s than customarily accepted. Often, however, the violence over water involves whole tribes or villages fighting each other, by inflicting considerable damage to the competitors’ water infrastructure, e.g. through the blowing up of wells and pumps, or also by killing members of the other community directly. Occasionally, clashes also involve governmental soldiers (cf. Jabr Mountain Water Conflict). According to researchers from Sana’a University, 70-80% of conflicts in rural Yemen are related to water (WWAP, 2012). Although they cause large numbers of casualties, the vast majority of these conflicts are highly localised.

Moreover, disputes are increasingly likely as internal migration rises and land sales have led to a mixed make-up of villages where cohabiting tribes with diverging economic interests compete for access to dwindling water resources. In this context, resentments are likely to surge and ancient feuds can be revived (Kasinof, 2009; Ward, 2009). Water disputes are often closely connected to land disputes and “may be the trigger for conflict against a background of other grievances” (Hales, 2010b).

Resolution Efforts

Legal conflict resolution
Various traditional and formal conflict resolution mechanisms exist but remain often ineffective. Customary rules and statutory law are often incoherent and hence can result in contradicting regulatory approaches, making conflict resolution less likely. Settlement by legal means is further obstructed by a lack of both law enforcement and public confidence in the Yemeni judiciary. In the past, laws have frequently been interpreted in favour of influential individuals and groups. Furthermore, courts are perceived as too expensive due to the prevalent corruption, as too slow, and as too remote from the local level. While people thus turn to customary resolution mechanisms, there are, however, hardly any customary laws regulating groundwater extraction since this is a rather recent phenomenon (see Zhang, Huntjens & de Man, 2014; Ward, 2009).

Moreover, traditional local leaders are increasingly unable to solve conflicts. In an effort to “divide and rule” local tribes, former president Saleh appointed numerous sheikhs without proper knowledge of local customs and traditional laws. In addition, the sheikhs’ political activity is growing, making them lose their legitimacy as tribal leaders charged to work for the common good of their community. On the one hand, these measures weakened locals’ trust in their sheikhs as well as in state officials and institutions even more; on the other, they made sheikhs compete for power and divided society along tribal lines. Furthermore, sheiks are usually the largest users of groundwater themselves. Therefore, they face severe conflicts of interests that lessen both the credibility of their impartiality and their ability to make fair judgements that can appease all parties (Ward, 2009).

On the upside, the multi-layered and disjointed legal system allows for conflict parties to jointly choose a mediator from a broad range of actors, including state and customary authorities, or religious leaders. Despite this offering an alternative path to the sheikhs’ rulings for conflicts to be solved peacefully, mediators often experience considerable difficulties in getting the trust of all conflict parties (Zhang, Huntjens & de Man, 2014).

Resolution paths commonly taken
In a study, 96% of respondents said they would firstly deal with a conflict in traditional ways at neighbourhood level; if the conflict still remains unsolved they then seek a third party to mediate (Ward, 2009). If government officials are sought by the conflict parties they usually are from the National Water Resources Authority (NWRA), the national agency responsible for managing Yemen's water resources and enforcing the respective laws, and take different roles. Mostly, they function as advisors. However, the majority of conflicts are solved by sheiks who try to do so in concordance with the respective customs and, if needed, ask judges or NWRA experts for technical advice; in non-tribal areas, community associations have been founded to manage water resources and mediate disputes. Only if the conflict is still unresolved until then, they go to court. However, unless the conflicts involve killings, this rarely happens and normally only if one of the parties sees an advantage for itself in doing so (Ward, 2009).

Notwithstanding the existing possibilities for peaceful conflict resolution, parties might nonetheless choose to deal with a conflict by recourse to arms because peaceful settlements “do not always address the root causes of a conflict, but rather prevent the conflict from escalating” (Zhang, Huntjens & de Man, 2014). Traditional resolutions only aim at satisfying the conflict parties but not at a sustainable resource management which could avert scarcities and future conflicts.

Tackling water scarcity
When water scarcity became more visible the government took some minor action on the demand side. While the notion of reducing water consumption is indeed the right one, these efforts were fairly limited in scope and hence had very little impacts. More effective measures like significantly cutting fuel subsidies, needed to operate deep tube wells, were mostly shunned by the government for their great unpopularity.

In another attempt to address the pressing issue of growing water scarcity, the NWRA was established in 1996 and the Ministry for Water and Environment (MWE) in 2003. Nevertheless, the most important powers and portfolios such as the “Irrigation and Dams Department” remained with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MAI) (Al-Asbahi, 2005). This division of responsibilities precludes effective action as the MAI generally represents the interests of large farmers and other elite members and thus focused on action on the supply side, i.e. to increase water supplies, while the MWE instead endeavoured to implement more sustainable demand side-focused measures (Zeitoun, 2009).

External actors
International donors are very important for improving Yemen’s water management, in particular the German and Dutch development aid agencies. Not only do they provide financial resources, they can also set conditions when they implement projects and thereby target a sustainable resource management. In order to foment trust and induce cooperation, aid agencies try to work directly with local stakeholders and seem to focus on facilitating transparent procedures and accountability (Hill, 2008). Supported by the German GIZ, a decentralisation programme accomplished to devolve competencies for water to the local level by creating 14 water basin committees. Decentralisation seems to be a promising resolution strategy both for a more sustainable resource management and a reduction of violence since it “provides citizens with an opportunity for more equity and voice since it supports the power of local community institutions. It also builds on existing indigenous forms of civil society and values of local governance“ (World Bank, 2006). A close cooperation between the NWRA, the water basin committees, local coordinators and self-organised community groups has led to a significant decrease in illegal well-drilling (GIZ, 2014). Nevertheless, international donors’ agendas often seem to be unclear to local inhabitants and their projects can also have adverse impacts if badly designed.
Due to the deteriorated security situation many donors have left the country (Zhang, Huntjens & de Man, 2014) and important reforms such as the decentralisation efforts have come to a halt (GIZ, 2015).

Ultimately, the existent peaceful formal and informal conflict resolution mechanisms are important pathways that should be retained and strengthened. Furthermore, public authorities seem to have had some success at reducing the likelihood for conflicts to be carried out by violence. They passed several laws restricting the permission to sell and carry guns. Nevertheless, they only addressed urban areas and overall violence continues to persist (Hales, 2010b). Moreover, the local conflicts over water can only really be resolved if their root causes are effectively addressed, i.e. groundwater extraction is regulated at sustainable rates. Demand-oriented policies, such as diminishing economic incentives for water-intensive crops, making irrigation methods more efficient, improving water infrastructures, and decreasing the dependency of livelihoods on agriculture through a diversification of the Yemeni economy, are therefore imperative. Yet, many of those measures on the demand side are often opposed by influential stakeholders who prefer to instead develop further water supplies – such as farmer sheikhs, the MAI, and large land owners – wherefore effective demand-side action is unlikely within the current political set-up (see Zeitoun, 2009).

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

Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Manifest Crisis
4 000
Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation National
Resolution Success
Reduction in Violence There was no reduction in violence.
Reduction in geographical scope There has been no reduction in geographical scope.
Increased capacity to address grievance in the future There is no increased capacity to address grievances in the future.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been partially addressed.
Causal Attribution of Decrease in Conflict Intensity There has been no reduction in intensity
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
Villagers (Yemen)
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Sheikhs (Yemen)
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Government of Yemen
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Yemeni courts
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
International donors
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
2 Improving state capacity & legitimacy The National Water Resources Authority (NWRA) and the Ministry for Water and Environment (MWE) were established to address the pressing issue of growing water scarcity. The NWRA is responsible for managing Yemen's water resources and enforcing the respective laws, while the MWE attempts to implement more sustainable demand side-focused measures.
2 Strengthening legislation and law enforcement In an effort to reduce violence, the Yemeni government passed several laws restricting the permission to sell and carry guns.
2 Changes in constitutional balance of power Decentralisation seems to be a promising resolution strategy for a more sustainable resource management and a reduction of violence. A close cooperation between the NWRA, the water basin committees, local coordinators and self-organised community groups has led to a significant decrease in illegal well-drilling.
0 Promoting alternative livelihoods In order to reduce local conflict, policies can be created to decrease the dependency of livelihoods on agriculture through a diversification of the Yemeni economy.
0 Improving resource efficiency Policies that regulate groundwater extraction, diminish economic incentives for water-intensive crops, and create more efficient irrigation methods are imperative in order to address the root causes of the conflict.
2 Environmental restoration & protection International donors such as the German and Dutch development aid agencies provide financial resources to implement projects that focus on sustainable resource management.
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 strongly present.
Ecological Marginalization is strongly present.
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse
Conflict References References with URL


Adaptation & Resilience

All countries will need to adapt to some of the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change that are already unavoidable. Food security, livelihoods, water resource availability and public health are some affected areas. People living in poverty are more vulnerable, having a lower capacity to adapt. Thus, it is essential to promote resilience building. The adaptation and resilience aspects need to be mainstreamed into planning by policy makers and the private sector as well as integrated into development strategies.

Biodiversity & Livelihoods

Nature protection is most sustainable if it essentially contributes to the long-term stability of human needs. Today many regions around the world are confronted with increasing destruction of the natural foundations of life. The consequences of wide-ranging resource destruction are no longer regionally limited, but rather represent a global threat. Those affected are mainly rural populations, who find the sources of their income and the foundations of their way of life swept away. The depletion and destruction of natural resources goes hand in hand with decreasing agricultural yields and increasing poverty, which in turn forces the affected populations to deplete the remaining resources.

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Capacity Building

On the one hand, conflicts are caused by structural factors, such as economic and social inequality or environmental destruction. On the other hand, conflicts are fuelled by a lack of democratic structures, deficient mechanisms of non-violent conflict settlement, inadequate rule of law, the destruction of social and cultural identity and the disregard of human rights. Against this backdrop, development policies have been dedicated to a broad concept of security, which comprises political, economic, ecological and social stability. As a consequence, development cooperation agencies and actors have developed a broad spectrum of approaches for conflict prevention and transformation as well as for sustainable use of natural resources.

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Civil Society

Civil society is the first victim of environmental pollution, under-development and conflicts. Economically disadvantaged and politically marginalized population groups are particularly affected by violent conflicts as well as increasing resource degradation. Simultaneously, civil society is a fundamental pillar for implementing sustainable development. It contributes in many ways to strengthening conflict prevention and plays a significant role in the peaceful and democratic development of states. It must be supported to strengthen civil rights, adherence to human rights in general and democratic participation.

Climate Change

Climate change resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases represents one of the vital challenges for international environmental policy. Flooding, droughts, shifting of climate zones and increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events will have serious economic and social consequences for entire regions. The climate problem is also directly linked to the question of future energy generation.

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Climate Diplomacy

To address the challenges posed by climate change, a new profile of climate diplomacy is evolving. This utilises a full range of policies, including development cooperation, conflict prevention efforts, and humanitarian assistance, in addition to more traditional measures of climate change adaptation and mitigation. Moving from a risk analysis of climate-related threats to well-timed preventive action requires a greater commitment to integrating climate change concerns into development, foreign, and security policies. Examples include strengthening diplomatic networks, building new alliances with partners, and raising awareness – not only of potentially negative climate change impacts, but also of opportunities to embark on a sustainable transformation of our societies.

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Climate action entails an array of economic, social, political and environmental co-benefits. It provides an opportunity for economic growth and new jobs. Many investments can take into account climate considerations without becoming more costly. Further important co-benefits include: improved energy security, less local air and water pollution, health benefits as well as ecosystem and biodiversity protection.

Conflict Transformation

In order to overcome the structural causes of violent conflicts and thus bring about an improvement in the framework conditions for peaceful and fair development, it is essential to have long term and broadly planned peace development and peace advancement. Various governmental and non-governmental, national and international actors and groups are involved in these processes.

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Climate change and development are inextricably linked. Climate change endangers the development agenda and has the potential to reverse development goals. Furthermore, successful mitigation of climate change heavily depends on development choices around the world. Therefore, development strategies need to be climate-compatible to provide long-term success, and there are viable policy options that support this compatibility. Many mitigation and adaptation activities can present development opportunities to developing countries and avoid the lock-in to environmentally damaging technologies.

Early Warning & Risk Analysis

The reasons for the development and escalation of conflicts and the incidence of risks are multifaceted and complex. Simultaneously, the assessment of the specific causes in the form of risk and conflict analyses can contribute to a better understanding of these processes and make it possible to provide warning of negative developments, or ideally help prevent them. In the context of natural resource use, risks and conflicts have gained increasing attention in the past years. The debate on possible future water wars is merely one example.

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The well-being of individuals, communities and nations depends on the availability of energy resources. The gap between energy supply and demand appears to be growing, making the world vulnerable to serious economic shocks. At the same time, the burning of fossil fuels causing climate change is one of the vital challenges of international environmental policy. So far, only rudimentary approaches exist for shaping climate and energy security in a sustainable way. The components of a strategy that can contribute to reducing vulnerabilities related to climate change and energy policy include a greater role for renewable energies, the improvement of energy efficiency and a stronger decentralisation of energy supply.

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Environment & Migration

The economic, social and environmental consequences of climate change aggravate the breakdown of eco-system-dependent livelihoods and are likely to become dominant drivers of long-term migration. Natural disasters already cause massive shorter-term displacement and the number of temporarily displaced people is likely to further increase with climate change. For vulnerable populations in vulnerable regions, such as the Sahel zone or the Ganges delta, migration often becomes the sole survival strategy. In order to address climate-related displacement and migration successfully, knowledge of effective adaptation and an improved understanding of how environmental change affects human mobility is essential. 

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Climate finance, from all sources, plays a key role in supporting and enabling adaptation and mitigation action as well as climate and energy innovation. The Paris Agreement ensured that the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility are at the core of climate finance architecture as entities entrusted with the operation of the Financial Mechanism of the UNFCCC. Increasing climate finance from all relevant public and private sources is crucial. Furthermore, much needs to be done to redirect finance flows to sustainable paths, e.g. reducing fossil fuel subsidies, introducing maritime and air transportation taxes. The conditions for green investment in developing countries should also be improved.


Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Competition for forest resources triggers, exacerbates, or finances numerous crises and conflicts in tropical developing countries. Illegal logging and timber trade foster instability and sometimes violent conflict by strengthening illegal and armed groups, increasing corruption and exacerbating use and claim conflicts among local communities, the state and the business sector. Forests are a vital resource to poor people but they can also become areas of conflict. Sustainable management of forest resources is therefore key to preventing violent conflict over and within forests.

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Gender plays an important role as a category of conflict for many reasons. The interlinkages between gender, environment and conflicts are complex and much research is still needed. Existing insights suggest that conflicts may worsen gender inequalities that existed before the outbreak of violence. The unequal distribution of land property rights in many parts of the world serves as an example. Moreover, women (and children) are among those most affected by both violent conflict and natural disasters. At the same time, women carry much of the burden of trying to implement rehabilitation measures after crisis events.

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Land & Food

Increasing water scarcity, desertification and crop failures due to extreme weather events are becoming more and more of a threat to global food production. While the world’s population continues to grow rapidly, food production is unable to keep pace. Due to the global food crisis in 2008, the number of hungry people reached the symbolic one billion threshold for the first time – corresponding to about 16 percent of world population. Food insecurity may be a consequence or cause of conflicts. Violent conflicts often lead to the destruction of agricultural infrastructure and means of production, as well as to the displacement of local communities.

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Minerals & Mining

In the past, the discovery and tapping of valuable or strategic resources like valuable minerals, oil and natural gas, particularly in developing and emerging countries, has often led to large scale environmental contamination and negative development. The "resource curse" of some countries shows that the wealth from resource yields is frequently unfairly distributed; instead of serving development it advanced the formation of corrupt elites and in some cases even led to conflicts and civil wars. Measures in various sectors and at all levels are important in order to use the potential of these natural resources in a manner that is sustainable and prevents conflicts.

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Private Sector

The spread of violent conflict not only affects people but also companies located in such regions. Destruction of investments and infrastructure, collapse of markets and trade partnerships, flight and expulsion of employees are phenomena of conflicts and environment-induced crises that directly affect companies in unstable regions. Almost all branches of the economy thus have a clear interest in a stable and peaceful environment for their activities. Conversely, the business sector plays an important role in the interaction of economic growth, social development and a healthy environment, all of which can advance peace and sustainable development. 

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Environmental issues have a significant security dimension. Access to, and overuse of, natural resources often play a key role in civil wars or other forms of internal domestic conflict. This is compounded by climate change and environmental degradation. Climate change is now widely recognised as a non-traditional, risk-multiplying threat that will have increasing security impacts. Key risks with possible implications for human and national security include water scarcity, food crises, natural disasters, and displacement. More preventive diplomacy and advocacy is needed to address the strategic implications of climate and environmental change.

Sustainable Transformation

Sustainable Transformation allows societies to profit from a growing, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economy – especially in emerging and developing countries. This requires a higher up-front investment, but the benefits of a sustainable transformation in the medium and long term are significant. For instance, energy cost savings and reducing the impact of price volatility offer major incentives for deploying renewable energies and promoting energy efficiency. Such benefits exist in all key sectors of the economy.

Technology & Innovation

Innovations and technologies are already readily available and affordable but their global diffusion and uptake remains a challenge. Innovation and technology are crucial to achieving ambitious climate change mitigation and adaptation targets. However, research and development often do not receive appropriate public support. Developing countries can leapfrog high-carbon industrialisation phases by adopting, deploying and improving existing innovations and technologies. For this, it is essential to minimise financial, administrative and political barriers.


The availability of freshwater resources in sufficient quantity and quality is essential for the preservation of human health and sound ecosystems. The use of water resources is also vital, however, for economic development: whether for agriculture, industrial production or for electricity generation. The world's freshwater resources are distributed very unevenly in terms of geography and seasons. In addition, water shortage is becoming more prevalent in several regions due to population growth, economic development, urbanisation and increasing environmental pollution. Thus, water resources can hold potential for conflicts between parties who have different interests and needs.

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The environment in Asia is already under tremendous pressure as a result of the unsustainable use of land, forests, water and even air in many regions. Climate change will only exacerbate these challenges. Rising sea levels will likely endanger densely populated areas, changes in the monsoon patterns can strongly impact agriculture, melting glaciers will increase long-term water scarcity, and extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and cyclones can pose further hazards.

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Central America & Caribbean

Natural disasters and water scarcity are key challenges for most of Central America and the Caribbean. These challenges will become even more pronounced as the climate changes. Weak resource and disaster risk management and land disputes pose additional security challenges for large parts of the region. Several countries of Central America and the Caribbean have limited adaptive capacities as they face political instability caused by high social inequality, crime, corruption, and intra-state conflicts.

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As one of the most developed and most densely populated regions in the world, Europe makes heavy use of its resources, resulting in difficult trade-offs and negative consequences for the environment and ecosystems. Land is used for settlements, agriculture and dense infrastructure, creating problems of soil degradation. Water resources are stressed due to unsustainable agricultural practices. Despite nature protection policies, Europe continues to lose biodiversity at an alarming pace. Some of these trends are exacerbated by climate change, which is expected, for instance, to lead to shifts in water availability.

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Global Issues

Resource scarcities, environmental pollution and climate change are not limited by national borders, but often have a transboundary or even global impact. These issues interact with political stability, governance structures and economic performance, and can trigger or worsen disputes and violent conflicts. Exacerbating some of these trends, climate change is likely to lead to the degradation of freshwater resources, declines in food production, increases in storm and flood disasters and environmentally induced migration. All these developments pose potential for conflict.

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Middle East & North Africa

The geopolitical position of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), its fossil fuel resources, high population growth and the political changes spurred by the Arab Spring all make the region one of the most dynamic in the world. Nevertheless, it is also one of the most arid and environmentally stressed. Dwindling water resources, limited arable and grazing land, high pollution from household and industrial waste, remnants of conflicts and increasing desertification are key environmental challenges.

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North America

Climate change has various impacts on the three North American countries of Canada, Mexico and the US. Canada and the US have well-developed adaptive capacities and foster the strengthening of capacities in other regions as well. With high per capita emissions, these two countries also bear a greater responsibility for a changing climate. Mexico has a sound national strategy for climate change adaptation, yet fewer capacities than Canada and the US. The poorer and rural populations of Mexico are especially vulnerable to climate change, due to an increased sensitivity and a lower adaptive capacity.

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Oceania & Pacific

In Oceania, population growth and economic development trends put a strain on oceanic and island ecosystems. Freshwater scarcity, overexploitation of fisheries, loss of land biodiversity, forests and trees, invasive species, soil degradation, increasing levels of settlement, poor management of solid and hazardous waste and disproportionate use of coastal areas are some of the problems. Climate change exacerbates most of these trends, while also raising questions about the future sovereignty of some island states.

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South America

South America has diverse and unique ecosystems and is very rich in biodiversity. Weak natural resource management, land disputes and extreme weather events bring about significant challenges for the region. While South America accounts for relatively few CO2 emissions, the changing climate will alter its ecosystems and greater climate variability will lead to more hurricanes, landslides, and droughts.

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Sub-Saharan Africa

In many African states, environmental security issues rank high on the political agenda. Throughout the continent, countries suffer from water scarcity, food insecurity and energy poverty. These chronic and worsening resource scarcities have severe livelihood implications and are exacerbated by political conflicts over access to and control over these resources. Climate change may seriously threaten political and economic stability in Africa. It may also put a severe strain on the capacities of states and societies to co-ordinate activities, to communicate and to organize.

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