When it comes to a potential tool box to address the security implications of climate change, conflict-sensitive adaptation serves as a buzzword: often mentioned but with little conceptual and practical advice. For the African region, Urmilla Bob and Salomé Bronkhorst now offer new food for thought on this topic in their recently published book “Conflict-sensitive adaptation to climate change in Africa”.
The book is the result of a discussion process, which was initiated by the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) in 2011 in the run up to the climate change conference in Durban.
According to the authors, climate changes in temperatures, rainfall, sea levels and ocean acidification affect and will affect livelihood resources and options in Africa, especially amongst the poor. As Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, the former Chair of the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change for the UNFCCC, stresses in his foreword, “there is a need to understand specific contexts, requiring a much greater integration of local experiences and voices into science, to establish whether and how climate effects may cause conflicts in communities.”
By exploring insights from a local level in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, including some coastal areas, the editors are able to illustrate how climate change affects livelihoods, such as the effects on pastoral communities. In the case of Sudan, for example, Bronkhorst explores how pastoralism presents a possible response to climate change. She argues that in addition to potential resource scarcity caused by climate change, non-climatic factors, such as the introduction of legislation on land and mechanised farming, are currently main contributors to scarcities and conflicts between pastoralists and farmers.
Drawing on African experiences, one key result of this book is that any policy and practice of conflict-sensitive adaptation should include development, environmental and peacebuilding considerations. To this end, the final section of the book outlines potential approaches, such as an integrated assessment framework in the water sector, and explores how to design mediation strategies in the realm of natural resource management.
Without better integration of mediation into the conflict management toolbox, the authors predict an increasing occurrence of violence as a result of climate change. The local nature of these conflicts is no reason to neglect them from a foreign policy perspective and the support of the German Foreign Office to publish this book as part of its focus on climate diplomacy indicates that there is a growing awareness on adaptation as a means of crisis and conflict prevention.
For further insights on the topic please consult:
Tänzler et al. 2013: Adaptation to climate change for peace and stability
IUCN: Adaptation must be conflict sensitive