In the central Sahel, states are mobilising to combat the impact of climate change as way of reducing conflict. But to respond suitably to growing insecurity, it is important to look beyond a simplistic equation linking global warming and resource scarcity to outbreaks of violence.
Climate change was more central than ever at this year’s Munich Security Conference (MSC), the leading international forum for senior military, security and foreign policy leaders. The release of the inaugural “World Climate and Security Report 2020” (WCSR 2020) by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) should help policymakers take effective action.
On 29 November in Rabat, adelphi partnered with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to hold a regional dialogue on climate change and fragility risks in North Africa and the Sahel.
Years ago, Mohamed’s family had enough to eat, despite being poor. His daughter owned a vegetable stall at a bustling market in northeastern Nigeria. The family had options: during the dry season, when Lake Chad was shallow, Mohamed could farm; and during the wet season, he could fish or graze his cattle. But then things began to change.
The new study Shoring up Stability demonstrates, for the first time, how climate change interacts with conflict and exacerbates the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad region. To launch the report and discuss its findings with local policy-makers, experts and practitioners, the German Embassy in Niger, adelphi and CNESS co-organised a launch event on 24 October in Niamey. Insights from Niger point to the importance of investing in governance rather than technical fixes.
“Climate Security risks will materialise in very different ways and forms, whether we talk about Lake Chad or about the Arctic, Bangladesh and the Small Island Developing States,” said the EU’s Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Joao Vale de Almeida, in his opening remarks. “But for the EU, there is no doubt, as underlined in 2016 in our Global Strategy, and reaffirmed by the 28 Ministers of Foreign Affairs, that climate change is a major threat to the security of the EU and to global peace and security more generally,” he said.
In recent years, conflict between herders and farmers for access to increasingly scarce natural resources in Africa’s Sudano-Sahel has escalated. While the problems fueling these tensions are both hyper-local and transnational in nature, one important piece of the puzzle has been overlooked. The real “elephant in the room” is who owns the livestock.
Satellite analysis shows ‘vanishing’ lake has grown since 1990s, but climate instability is driving communities into the arms of Boko Haram and Islamic State. Climate change is aggravating conflict around Lake Chad, but not in the way experts once thought, according to new research.
In Mali and in the Sahel, changing rainfall patterns have been said to stress much of the current security crisis affecting the region, which can also be traced back to inadequate governance, corruption and local grievances. Prof. Tor A. Benjaminsen from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences argues that tackling these political sources of contention must be a priority, as climate change could aggravate the region’s security threats in the future.
The Planetary Security Conference 2019, which concluded on 20 February, saw a number of workshops being held on the Sahel region and specifically Mali, one of the Conference’s three spotlight regions. These workshops examined the region’s climate-water-security risks as well as the #doable actions and solutions to address these issues.
In “Africa’s smallest war,” both Kenya and Uganda lay claim to Migingo Island, a tiny island in the waters of Lake Victoria. While the claims are over the island, the conflict is about something else entirely: Lates niloticus, also known as Nile perch, a tasty white fish that swims in the waters surrounding the island. The fish forms the backbone of the Lake Victoria economy but is increasingly hard to come by along the lakeshore. Catches are in decline, incomes are dropping, and the Ugandan government is taking increasingly harsh, militarized steps to help revive the fishery. Who is to blame?
Peat areas have played a pivotal role in conflicts globally, and have also been a point of contention during post-conflict recovery. Communities in Southeast Asia as well as in the countries of the Congo are facing challenges as finding political solutions for this problem.
Liberia’s largest palm oil producer, Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) pulls out of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – how can rural communities cope with the impacts? The forests near GVL’s Liberian plantations are not only sacred sites of the region's people but also heavily populated with chimpanzees, leopards, pygmy hippopotamus and forest elephants which are significant not only to the local ecosystem but globally.
Both those who argue for and those who refute climate-conflict links draw on Darfur to support their case. New analysis of political bias behind the environmental narratives and their critiques adds much-needed nuance to our understanding of when drought is – and is not – relevant to the conflict.
The Lake Chad Basin is afflicted with a multidimensional crisis, which contributing factors range from deeply-entrenched regional hostilities to environmental degradation. The vulnerability of livelihood systems to changing climate patterns adds to the security pressures by exposing local populations to intimidation and recruitment by radical groups. Anja Stache, Programme Coordinator at GIZ, explains how the German development agency helps strengthen resilience by introducing climate-smart seeds.