This event was hosted by the International Crisis Group on November 16, 2021.
The relationship between climate change and deadly conflict is complex and context-specific, but it is undeniable that climate change is a threat multiplier that is already increasing food insecurity, water scarcity and resource competition, while disrupting livelihoods and spurring migration. In turn, deadly conflict and political instability are contributing to climate change – including through illegal logging.
The ongoing 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) is an opportunity to highlight the link between conflict and the climate crisis, as the effects of climatic stress factors on conflict are not straightforward and governments play a critical role in minimizing these risks.
This event brought together Crisis Group analysts, EU officials and member states, as well as experts from civil society, in a participatory roundtable discussion. They provided insights on how policymakers might best influence and respond to these complex climate changes to mitigate conflict risks.
Panelists navigated the topic through three important lenses:
- Resources competition and livelihood insecurity: Increases in temperature, seasonal variability and increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events have led to livelihood insecurity and land and water competition across the globe, with significant consequences for peace and security. Most visible are climate-exacerbated farmer-herder clashes witnessed across the Sahel and Horn of Africa, where seasonal variability and other climatic factors have increased competition over fertile soil between the groups, claiming the lives of thousands each year. In this session, Crisis Group’s Future of Conflict Fellow Ulrich Eberle presents his recent visual publication assessing the climate factor in Nigeria’s bloody farmer-herder conflict. Chris Hodder, UN Environmental Advisor on Somalia will explain the risks related to climate change in the Horn of Africa, with particular examples from Somalia.
- Climate, Displacement and Conflict: Long-term climatic trends and the increased frequency of natural disasters has been noted by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center to have internally displaced roughly 10.3 million in the past 6 months, a number projected to increase to over 220 million total internal migrants alone by 2050 according to the World Bank’s recent Groundswell Report. Climate change’s impact on displacement is already seen across the climate fragile regions of the Horn of Africa, South East Asia, and Central American Dry Corridor. In this session, Kayly Ober, Senior Advocate and Program Manager of the Climate Displacement Program at Refugees International, will discuss the relationship between climate, migration, and displacement. Ulrich Eberle and Crisis Group’s South Sudan Senior Analyst Alan Boswell will discuss ongoing work assessing the impact of the unprecedented 2020 floods in South Sudan on displacement patterns and resulting violence in the nation’s south.
- Climate Change as a Strategic Risk: Climate change is often called an “actorless” threat. This terminology, however, disguises how conflict actors exploit weather extremes in their own interests. State weakness and particularly poor crisis response offer an opening for groups and especially non-state actors to promote their agendas: from Al-Shabab in Somalia exploiting climate displacement for recruitment, to criminal cartels in Mexico and Latin America distributing aid at climate disaster sites to win hearts and minds. These opportunities will only increase as global temperature rises continue unabated, precipitating droughts, floods and other extreme events, with catastrophic consequences for livelihoods, stability and peace. Since the pathways linking climate change and conflict are complex and multidimensional, solutions will require the close integration of climate science with policy insight. In this session, Crisis Group’s Future of Conflict Director, Robert Blecher, expands upon the need to reconceptualize climate change as a strategic tool used by state and non-state actors, and discusses the organization’s forthcoming work on this topic. Mariko Peters, Senior Peace and Conflict Advisor at the European External Action Service, will look at the link between climate change, non-state actors and conflict in the EU’s approach, and will outline how the EU translates this into practice.
Robert Blecher, Program Director Future of Conflict, Crisis Group.
Alan Boswell, Senior Analyst for South Sudan, Crisis Group.
Ulrich Eberle, Climate Change and Conflict Fellow, Crisis Group.
Chris Hodder, UN Environmental Advisor on Somalia.
Kayly Ober, Senior Advocate and Program Manager of the Climate Displacement Program, Refugees International.
Mariko Peters, Senior Peace and Conflict Advisor, Conflict Prevention and Mediation Support, European External Action Service
Hugh Pope, Director of Communications and Outreach, Crisis Group