24 January 2019

'Explosive mix' of climate change and conflict in the Sahel discussed at Davos

New research visualising the contribution of climate stress to rising tensions in the Sahel was launched yesterday by the Igarapé Institute and Earthtime.org in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It coincided with a session on ‘Ending Violence in the Sahel’ at the World Economic Forum 2019 in Davos, featuring Igarapé Director Robert Muggah and ICRC President Peter Maurer.

Maurer, having just finished an eight-day visit to the region, said: “"Age-old tensions between farming and herding communities are intensifying because of climate change as the availability of usable land goes down and water sources become less reliable.”

"Climate change adds a complicating layer in a region where underdevelopment, endemic poverty, widespread criminality and violence already make life so fragile. This explosive combination means there must be a radical shift in approaches to the Sahel, which strengthen people's ability to better withstand climate shocks." Muggah has also written for the World Economic Forum 2019 on the Sahel's "overlapping conflicts that are spinning out of control".

The new mapped data visualisation website by EarthTime.org show how rising temperatures in the Sahel – 1.5 times faster than the global average – are making droughts and floods more common, grazing and water sources more scarce and food production more uncertain. Together this is exacerbating violence between pastoralists and agriculturalists, with hotspots spreading from Northern to central Mali, and along the borders between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.

The data also visualises potential solutions to the crisis, and Maurer has written about the ‘8 things we need to do to tackle humanitarian crises in 2019’. “We see promising examples, at a local level, which show us peace is possible and there's a lot of energy to respond to climate change," he says in a BBC report, ‘The battle on the frontline of climate change in Mali’. "But it's clear to me they won't cope unless there is solid support from the international community which isn't just through a security lens."

Mali is one of three spotlight regions of the Planetary Security Conference (PSC) on 19th and 20th February 2019 (alongside Lake Chad and Iraq), building on the commitment to “climate and conflict sensitive development in Mali” that was part of The Hague Declaration on Planetary Security.

Recent policy briefs on the issue by the Planetary Security Initiative have examined:

The PSC 2019 workshop ‘Joint Solutions for Water and Security Risks in Mali’ will focus on climate impacts on the Inner Niger Delta and their complex interaction with inter-communal conflicts. Local leaders and a scenario modelling exercise will aid the development of ideas to address water and security risks, which are then to be fed into a high-level stakeholder dialogue.

Additionally a workshop entitled "From local conflicts to regional solutions" will explore prospects for development and stability in the Mopti region of Mali. The Conflict Research Unit of the Clingendael Institute together with Mastercircle, GIZ Mali and Wetlands International Sahel, and with the support of the Planetary Security Initiative and the Netherlands Embassy in Bamako, will present the results of a consultation of local populations and an action plan developed by local stakeholders in recent months.


Image: Maliger Wide (courtesy ICRC)