13 July 2018

11 July: Climate Security takes centre stage at UNSC

On the 11th of July, the UN Security Council will host a debate on the risks relating to climate security. It will take place at 10:00 am New York EST, at the Security Council Chamber. The meeting will be chaired by Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström. Briefers are expected to include Deputy UN Secretary-General Amina Mohammad, Iraqi Minister of Water Resources, Dr. Hassan Janabi, and a leading representative of civil society, Hindou Ibrahim. On behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H.E. Mr. Eugene Rhuggenaath, the Prime Minister of Curaçao will participate to highlight the importance of bringing climate-security issues to the UNSC, and the important role that Small Island Developing States play in this regard. The debate is expected to be open and will therefore be broadcasted live at UN Web TV.

The climate-security link will be discussed in a full UNSC session for the first time since 2011, when Germany devoted a UNSC session on the importance of the implications of climate change in conflict and peace. On 15 December 2017 Italy organised an Arria-formula debate and on 22 March 2018 the Kingdom of the Netherlands organised an open briefing on the Lake Chad Basin. During the briefing, a majority of UNSC members stated that water and climate change were root causes for the crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region. The current debate will attempt to forge an understanding of climate-related security risks with a view to advance strategies on prevention and management of conflict. The UNSC could, potentially, emerge as the vanguard of conflict prevention that relate to the effects of climate change.

In the run up to this debate, the UNSC has recognized on various occasions, the threats that climate change and related environmental stresses, such as land degradation and desertification, pose to international peace. In March 2017, the UNSC recognised climate change for the first time as contributor in a conflict-prone region, Lake Chad (Resolution 2349).  In January a presidential statement was released in which climate change was recognised as a risk factor in West Africa and the Sahel. Subsequently, in March 2018 the UNSC adopted Resolution 2408 regarding climate change as a factor driving conflict in Somalia. Most recently, in June 2018, climate change was included in the extension of the UN MINUSMA mission mandate that operates in Mali (Resolution 2423). The agreed language of these resolutions refers to the adverse effects of climate change as a factor that contributes to destabilization, and the importance of adequate risk assessment and analysis in this regard.

 A key question now is whether progress will be made on the establishment of a so-called institutional home for climate-security at the UN, or something similar to it. This has been mentioned as one of the objectives of the Hague Declaration on Planetary Security. Such an institutional home would, in a more structural way, anchor the analysis of climate-related security risks into the work of the UN (see also PSI policy brief on climate-security and the UNSC). The debate will focus on how such an institutional home would function and the course by which regions most affected can benefit from it. To make the case, briefers are expected to illustrate how climate impacts hit hard in specific regions and countries of this world, including in the Lake Chad region, West-Africa and the Sahel, but also territories where the UNSC has not yet recognised this, such as the small island states.  In Iraq the UNAMI mandate (Resolution 2421) has also been extended to include cooperation on issues of water and environment.  On the deteriorating water scarcity situation in Iraq PSI just published a new policy brief (see here)