Climate Change and Security: Perspectives from the Field

Research & Publications | October 20, 2020 | ,

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AU UN IST PHOTO / Tobin Jones

Within the UN and beyond, there is a growing recognition of the impact of climate change on the risks of violent conflict. The UN Security Council has recognized that climate change is one of several factors affecting the stability of countries and has called for more in-depth analysis, reporting and risk assessments on the links between environmental shifts and insecurity. The 2020-2022 strategy of the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) includes climate change as a factor driving conflict risks, while UN regional approaches increasingly reflect an understanding that conflict prevention must take environmental changes into account. Increasingly, the common country assessments produced by UN offices around the world include reference to the impacts of climate change on their work, including on humanitarian, development and political engagements. Reflecting the priority of the issue, a Climate Security Mechanism was established in late 2018 across three UN entities tasked with integrating climate risk considerations across the UN system.

These trends have created a growing demand for climate-security empirics, for analysis that will illuminate the complex links between increasing global temperatures and risks of instability. Much of the analysis to date has been conducted outside the UN, by a range of scientific and policy experts who have already contributed significantly to our understanding of how specific settings are being impacted today. However, as climate-security has begun to be mainstreamed into UN policies and practices, the organization has also produced significant research of its own, while non-UN researchers too have turned their focus on how the UN might benefit from climate-security findings.

This policy brief examines the issue of climate-security primarily from the perspective of UN field offices around the world. It draws principally on a set of case studies (below) commissioned by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Oslo Governance Centre through the UNDP-DPPA Joint Programme on Building National Capacities for Conflict Prevention. They were commissioned on the occasion of the fourth cohort of the Peace and Development Advisors (PDAs) Fellowship on climate-related security risks and sustaining peace that was organized in Stockholm in December 2019 in partnership with the Folke Bernadotte Academy. These studies were produced by PDAs and other field-based advisers deployed in Bangladesh, Chad, the Caribbean, Jordan, Guatemala, the Maldives, Nigeria, Tunisia and UN officers in regional hubs in Nairobi and Dakar.

The brief aims to capture common themes and lessons across these studies, also identifying areas where further work might help bolster future UN policies and practice. This brief complements the Climate Security Mechanism’s global quick scan of UN efforts to address climate-related security risks and can be used by practitioners to inform new research and programming.

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These case studies were undertaken by PDA Fellows co-hosted by UNDP Oslo Governance Centre and the Folke Bernadotte Academy, in partnership with the Joint UNDP-DPPA Programme.

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