27 February 2024

Towards a 'Peace Continuum' approach to climate security

Insights from the Horn of Africa

Climate change has become widely recognised as a security concern and a key priority area in European and broader Western initiatives for global peace and security, with a significant focus on Africa. It is commonly perceived as a ‘threat multiplier’, posing risks to stability by catalysing migration, contributing to resource conflicts and bolstering recruitment for non-state armed actors. This framing has accompanied the integration of climate issues into existing security and defence initiatives, but the current global context necessitates a rethink of security strategies. Climate change acts as both a catalyst and an opportunity for such a rethink, requiring approaches orientated towards integrating climate change adaptation and finance into a ‘peace continuum’ that spans prevention, peacebuilding and development, with a focus on African regional and context specific needs.

Despite the widespread recognition of the importance of the issue, critiques of climate security as a concept have emerged from both research and practitioner perspectives, raising concerns that framing climate as a security threat may result in prioritising defence responses at the expense of development and adaptation solutions. There is significant merit to these critiques. At the same time, however, recognising climate as a security issue should be leveraged to enhance commitment to climate finance and adaptation.

Various significant challenges need to be faced in order to improve the global response to climate security risks. First of all, wealthy countries’ failure to adequately deliver on commitments for climate adaptation support and finance negatively impacts climate security. Contexts affected by conflict and fragility are the most climate insecure yet receive disproportionately limited donor engagement and targeted climate finance. Secondly, institutional fragmentation and conflict are obstacles that hinder efficient processes of sustainable adaptation. Lastly, growing geopolitical competition for influence in Africa has led to polarisation, but also presents opportunities for African actors to forge partnerships aligned with their priorities.

The dynamics in the Horn of Africa strongly exemplify the compound challenges arising from the intersection of climate change, conflict and institutional fragmentation. Moreover, the region has emerged as a site wherein the United Nations has introduced new climate security initiatives and partnerships, and also where country specific approaches in the making hold important lessons. The climate security agenda has strong regional backing but needs an orientation towards integrating climate change adaptation and finance more effectively into a ‘peace continuum’ that spans prevention, peacebuilding and development, tailored to local contexts.

These are extracts from one report, published by DIIS in January 2024, which was authored by Louise Wiuff Moe. The full article can be accessed through the link here.

Photo credit: Stuart Rankin/Flickr