ECC Platform Library

 

SDG17 on Global Partnerships – The embodiment of foreign policy

25 April, 2019
Daria Ivleva, adelphi

The SDG 17 calls for getting the foundations right for substantial progress on the 2030 Agenda. It includes key conditions for successful sustainability action that are relevant across all actor groups, and most of them depend on international cooperation.

However, from a foreign policy perspective that focuses on (global) geopolitical and (local) conflict cycle implications, some targets stand out. Finance and trade flows that secure an economic and environmental basis for resilience need to inform promotion of foreign trade and investment (targets 17.1-17.5, 17.10-17.12). Policy and institutional coherence (targets 17.13-17.15) and multi-stakeholder partnerships (targets 17.16-17.17) are essential for making a foreign policy contribution to the 2030 Agenda, particularly, to prevent conflict and cope with geopolitical shifts.

Finance & Trade

The extent to which international finance and trade affect both sustainable development opportunities of states and global commons must not be underestimated1. These complex dynamics transcend national boundaries and governance levels, challenging a state-centred world order. Besides, sustainable trade and investment are essential for global peace and stability. Promotion of foreign trade and investment (and economic diplomacy in general) has been gaining importance during the last decades2, has been facilitating economic relations, e.g., through conferences and support of delegation trips, and has become an essential part of diplomacy. Many interest groups are involved with forming trade and investment policies, which can be highly sensitive and include points on balancing strong domestic interests. However, economic foreign policy needs to be guided to a greater extent by resilience and stability priorities as opposed to the mere facilitation of international economic relations between different actors. This also means actively promoting sustainable development.

Currently, trade and investment flows often get locked in unsustainable dynamics, making it more difficult for poorer and fragile countries to develop sustainable, productive economies while fuelling environmental degradation3. This can exacerbate and prolong conflict, undermining progress on SDG 16. Thus, to achieve SDGs, we need to transform global trade and investment. International trade regulations (e.g. WTO regime), regional (e.g. EU trade agreements with other regions) and bilateral trade relations need to promote a sustainable use of developing countries’ natural assets and provide them with a sound economic basis for sustainable development4 5, fostering local development and opportunities for stability and peace. The coherence of investment and sustainability policies needs to be strengthened in export promotion, investment protection, development and humanitarian finance.

This requires a transformation at an enormous scale that will impact geopolitics. Making international investment flows compatible with planetary boundaries will likely bring about devaluation of many national assets as well as a major shift in economic structures in developing and fragile countries, for example, certain forms of agricultural production or extractive activities will change drastically or stop6 7. Without proactive multilateral and multilevel transition governance, this can threaten geopolitical stability8. To minimise stability risks and to be able to steer these highly complex internationalised processes, there is a pronounced need for international solutions. At the same time, if guided accordingly, such transformation can provide significant peace dividends, giving fragile societies the means to satisfy the needs of their populations in the long term and improving institutions as mandated by SGD 16.

Policy and institutional coherence

Foreign policy must work to improve coherence in external action to promote sustainability as well as contribute to resilience and geopolitical perspectives to sustainable development activities. Policy and institutional coherence is a central requirement for implementing the 2030 Agenda. Firstly, all political actors need to prioritise the 2030 Agenda and seek for effective instruments to implement it. Secondly, sustainability in general and implementing the 2030 Agenda, in particular, is per se a balancing act: the overall purpose is only served by achieving all of the different goals together. Inevitable trade-offs thus need to be resolved. For instance, one cannot combat poverty by endangering life on land or promote education that hampers gender equality. Simultaneously achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda requires understanding how negative and positive co-impacts emerge in specific contexts, as the interpretation of goal achievement, concrete measures, and possible feedback loops will differ significantly between countries, sectors, etc. Without increasing policy and institutional coherence, there is little prospect of societies accomplishing this complex exercise. Coherence is also closely linked to the institution-related targets of SDG 16.

From a foreign policy perspective, we can infer the following points: 1) sustainable development needs to become a compass of all foreign policy rather than an ‘add-on’ topic, as it is needed to sustain peace; 2) it is important to increase the understanding of how priorities of peace and stability interact with the implementation on the 2030 Agenda; 3) it is crucial to identify the actions that can make the implementation of the 2030 Agenda compatible with these priorities and 4) these actions need to be coherently implemented across the actors’ spectrum.

While many actors are involved in the external action, foreign policy has the task to lead the way, shape strategies and bring together national priorities and international challenges at hand. Inherently political interaction and professional diplomatic networks cannot be replaced, making foreign policy a suitable driver of policy integration needed to enhance sustainable development in the international realm. Diplomats can help mainstream conflict-sensitive sustainability action into peacebuilding, humanitarian aid and if the respective responsibility lies with them, development cooperation. They also need to integrate sustainable development throughout the strands and forums of foreign policy.

For this, different instruments are available. A portfolio screening, specific to the responsibilities of a given country’s foreign affairs ministry, can be an appropriate starting point. Overarching planning divisions or working groups of ministries of foreign affairs can be tasked with portfolio integration – provided they receive sufficient backing from the leadership. Aligning foreign policy spending with sustainable development goals is a powerful integration instrument. Training activities, tailored to the different target groups, present another major opportunity to mainstream sustainable development into foreign policy. 

Multi-stakeholder partnerships

Strong cross-sectoral partnerships and strong multilateral governance are necessary for implementing the SDGs. Both aspects are crucial from a foreign policy perspective. Making the full use of the diplomatic toolbox is essential to create a broad backing and enable effective, innovative partnerships for sustainable development. But a global sustainable transition is likely to bring about power shifts, with new governance challenges, risk complexes, and other unintended consequences. Strengthening multilateral interaction is essential to being able to cope with this, making sure the international community comes together in the process instead of drifting apart.

Implementing the 2030 Agenda is a whole-of-society effort rather than a top-down task exclusively for national governments. Fully recognising this cross-sectoral dimension can also allow for maximising the peace dividend of sustainable development, promoting SDG 16. Foreign policy can play an important facilitating role for partnerships with investment institutions, the private sector, and the civil society. Balancing of interests is central to a sustainable transformation, as it has distributional implications, that is, creates winners and losers or faces opposition by vested interests. Where these implications are international, diplomacy has a pivotal role to play and is called upon to tap into its capabilities to seek a balance of interests for ambitious action. One of the specific modes is brokering or mediation: here, foreign policy can help achieve an agreement on contested and conflict issues, for instance, in the case of transboundary water agreements.

Moreover, foreign policy needs to come to terms with broader trends of change in international relations. The framework of international engagement includes multiple levels of forums and arenas. The boundaries between actors that we see as ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’ are permeable. Managing heterogeneous, fluid and often complex networks is indispensable9 10 11. In regards to this, foreign policy’s role in securing effective multilateral arrangements to promote SDG implementation, cushioning risks, is also vital. 

Joint action and pooling capacities are an essential part of accelerating a transition. These can include:

  • Alliances of front-runner states that seek to accelerate specific technologies and alliances between front-runners and laggards to help the latter to advance;
  • Regional alliances for cooperation on transboundary issues or topics of joint concern (e.g., regional water and energy cooperation, insurance initiatives); 
  • Capacity-building partnerships (e.g., NDC Partnership, research collaboration).

Illustration: entry points for sustainable finance and trade

Trade affects ecosystem services and economic complexity of states including factors such as natural resource dependence or technological capacities, showing its potential to influence resilience. Trade arrangements could support or disrupt local food production in developing and fragile countries. In 2015, WTO members agreed to eliminate agricultural export subsidies, which is considered the most significant reform of agriculture trade rules in the history of WTO12. A regional example is the EU’s association agreement with Central America with provisions to foster sustainable development through trade13. The volatility of commodity prices is another major risk for fragile societies. To secure food supply, there is an interim agreement at the WTO not to challenge public stockholding programmes as trade distortion14

Export promotion efforts can concentrate on sustainable technologies. Trade regimes and agreements can promote trade in environmental goods and services, e.g., by tackling tariff and non-tariff barriers. These negotiations are a complex diplomatic task: the lists of products that are considered sustainable and receive preferential tariff treatment are contested, as this benefits or harms trade balances of specific countries15 16.

The criteria applied by finance institutions should ensure investment patterns consistent with SDGs. For example, the OECD restricted export credit finance that is directed to coal power plants. International investment agreements (IIAs) should not undermine national environmental regulations or sustainable taxation as private enterprises often receive broad rights to go to court with national governments over their regulation17.  International investments should not incentivise resource use against resilience principles, e.g., land or water grabs. Sustainability criteria need to play a much stronger role in commodity investment, while investors should closely monitor climate and environmental risks and make them transparent18 19.

Illustration: EU Global Strategy for a more coherent external action 

The EU Global Strategy seeks a consistent security agenda based on resilience and sustainability. The strategy highlights the “notion of a joined-up Union” working across policy sectors, an integrated approach to conflicts and the importance of internal-external nexus. The strategy states: “A prosperous Union also hinges on an open and fair international economic system and sustainable access to the global commons. The EU will foster the resilience of its democracies. Consistently living up to our values will determine our external credibility and influence20.”  Already in the drafting phase, the EEAS gathered input from several Directorates-General (as well as from the civil society and the private sector)21

Illustration: harnessing innovative partnerships and approaches to diplomacy

Ad - hoc coalitions: Often, policies such as renewable energy deployment are promoted by groups of states based on a joint understanding of a specific issue, but not supported by a binding agreement or a clear institutional structure (e.g., Mission Innovation). Ad-hoc coalitions offer excellent opportunities to tackle specific barriers to sustainable action as they are flexible in structure, based on a voluntary commitment of like-minded actors and concentrate on particular areas of work. They can kick-start action through several front-runners and decrease the barriers for others.

The “ecosystem approach” of the EU Climate Diplomacy is based on the assumption that climate action and its ambition level are formed by an ecosystem of domestic and external actors from politics, business, administration, civil society, academia and the media. To promote climate action, diplomacy should harness the potential of the whole ecosystem rather than focussing on policymakers. For instance, during the EU Week of Climate Diplomacy, the EU Delegation to Australia organised a broad variety of events on climate security with over 1,000 participants to bring different parts of the “climate-ecosystem” together22.

Conclusion

Foreign policy has a substantial role to play in leveraging broad partnerships for sustainable development, providing coherent strategies for states’ external action and making international finance and trade more compatible with sustainability and resilience. Implementing SDG 17 also offers opportunities to strengthen multilateralism and improve international policy effectiveness. In the end, SDG 17 embodies what foreign policy is about – building and strengthening partnerships for mutual benefit and understanding.

 

[This article appeared as part of adelphi’s Policy Brief “A foreign policy perspective on the SDGs” (2018) and its comprehensive annex.]

 

Sources:

  1. Chakraborty, Debashis and Sacchidananda Mukherjee 2013: How do trade and investment flows affect environmental sustainability? Evidence from panel data. Environmental Development.
  2. Woolcock, Stephen and Nicholas Bayne 2013: ‘Economic Diplomacy’, in A. F. Cooper, J. Heine and R. Thakur (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 385-401.
  3. Chakraborty, Debashis and Sacchidananda Mukherjee 2013: How do trade and investment flows affect environmental sustainability? Evidence from panel data. Environmental Development.
  4. OECD 2015: Aligning Policies for a Low-carbon Economy, OECD Publishing, Paris. Available online at: http://www.oecd.org/env/aligning-policies-for-a-low-carbon-economy-9789264233294-en.htm (retrieved January 29, 2018).
  5. GCEC – Global Commission for Economy and Climate 2016: Sustainable Infrastructure Imperative Financing for Better Growth and Development. http://newclimateeconomy.report/2016 (retrieved July 5, 2018).
  6. Ivleva, Daria; Tim Schlösser, Christine Scholl, Kim Schultze and Stephan Wolters 2017: Alte Schätze nicht mehr heben?. Stranded Assets und ihre Bedeutung für die Governance des fossilen Rohstoffsektors. Available online at: https://www.adelphi.de/de/publikation/alte-sch%C3%A4tze-nicht-mehr-heben  (retrieved January 19, 2018).
  7. Rautner, Mario, Shane Tomlinson and Alison Hoare Environment 2016: Managing the Risk of Stranded Assets in Agriculture and Forestry. London: Chatham House. Available online at: https://www.chathamhouse.org/publication/managing-risk-stranded-assets-forestry-and-agriculture (retrieved June 29, 2018).
  8. de Jong, Sijbren; Willem L. Auping, Willem Th. Oosterveld, Artur Usanov, Mercedes Abdalla, Alicevan de Bovenkamp and Christopher Frattina della Frattina 2017: The Geopolitical Impact of Climate Mitigation Policies. How Hydrocarbon Exporting Rentier States and Developing Nations can Prepare for a More Sustainable Future. The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. http://hcss.nl/sites/default/files/files/reports/HCSS_Energytransition.pdf (retrieved  14 August 2017).
  9. Cooper, Arthur F.; Jorge Heine and Ramesh Thakur (eds,) 2013: ‘Introduction: The Challenges of 21stCentury Diplomacy’, in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1-31.   
  10. Heine, Jorge 2013: ‘From Club to Network Diplomacy’, in Arthur F. Cooper, Jorge Heine and Ramesh Thakur (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 5469.Hill, Christpher 2003: The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy. Palgrave Macmillan.
  11. Hocking, Brian; Jan Melissen, Shaun Riordan and Paul Sharp. 2012: Futures for diplomacy: Integrative Diplomacy in the 21st Century. Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’. Available online at: https://www.clingendael.org/publication/futures-diplomacy-integrative-diplomacy-21stcentury (retrieved January 19, 2018).
  12. WTO (no date): Agriculture negotiations. Available online at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/agric_e/negoti_e.htm (retrieved January 29, 2018).
  13. CIFCA 2016: Everything you need to know about the EU-Central America Association Agreement. Available online at: http://www.cifcaeu.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Brochure_AdA_EU-CA_EN.pdf (retrieved January 29, 2018).
  14. WTO (no date): Agriculture negotiations. Available online at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/agric_e/negoti_e.htm (retrieved January 29, 2018).
  15. Bacchus, James 2016: Global Rules for Mutually Supportive and Reinforcing Trade and Climate Regimes. E15Initiative. Geneva. Available online at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/E15/WEF_Climate_Change_POP.pdf (retrieved January 25, 2018).
  16. Droege, Susanne; Harro van Asselt, Katsuri Das and Michael Mehling 2016: The Trade System and Climate Action: Ways forward under the Paris Agreement. Working Paper, Climate Strategies Project. Available online at:  http://climatestrategies.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Trade-and-climateways-forward-1.pdf (retrieved January 19, 2018).
  17. SRU – Sachverständigenrat für Umweltfragen 2016: Umwelt und Freihandel: TTIP umweltverträglich gestalten: Stellungnahme. Available online at: http://www.umweltrat.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/04_Stellungnahmen/2012_2016/2016_02_AS19_TTIP.pdf%3F__blob=publicationFile (retrieved January 25, 2018).
  18. HLEG – EU High-level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance 2018: Financing a sustainable European economy. Final report 2018. Available online at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/180131sustainable-finance-report_en (retrieved February 15, 2018).
  19. WWF 2012: The 2050 criteria guide to responsible investment in agricultural, forest, and seafood commodities. Available online at: http://assets.worldwildlife.org/publications/458/files/original/2050_criteria_final_low_res_online_viewing.pdf?1348517472&_ga=1.31684472.755549856.1476862185 (retrieved January 25, 2018).
  20. EU 2016: Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe. A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy. Available online at: https://eeas.europa.eu/archives/docs/top_stories/pdf/eugs_review_web.pdf  (retrieved January 29, 2018).
  21. Tocci, Nathalie 2016: The making of the EU Global Strategy. Contemporary Security Policy, Vol. 37, No. 3, pp. 461-472. Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1080/13523260.2016.1232559 (retrieved January 19, 2018).
  22. Wolters, Stephan and Stella Schaller 2017: Good practice in climate diplomacy: approaches for a climate-resilient, low-carbon future.  Available online at: https://www.climate-diplomacy.org/news/goodpractice-climate-diplomacy-approaches-climate-resilient-low-carbon-future (retrieved June 29, 2018).
ArticleClimate Diplomacy
Topic
Climate Diplomacy

Region
Global Issues

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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