Climate change is altering security landscapes around the world. West Africa is experiencing climate change at rates faster than the global average. Climate change is also interacting with regional political tensions, violent conflicts and complex humanitarian emergencies. As changing climate conditions impact natural resource availability, biodiversity and agricultural productivity, low levels of resilience are magnifying the human security implications of climate change in West Africa. In the next 10-20 years, unprecedented changes in temperatures and precipitation are projected in the region. Simultaneously, violent conflicts are escalating and spreading, as more and more countries witness spill-over effects.
In view of the need for locally anchored analyses and responses to climate-related security risks in West Africa, FriedrichEbert-Stiftung’s Peace and Security Centre of Competence Sub-Saharan Africa, the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) organised a series of meetings for West African experts, researchers and civil society organisations, from November 2021 to November 2022. This brief summarises the working group’s analysis of climate-related security risks in West Africa, responses to those risks and recommendations for actions to address them.
Key message 1. West Africa faces complex climate change and security risks that need to be addressed through integrated responses Regional temperatures are climbing at rates faster than the global average and rainfall is less and less predictable. West African states have limited capacities to respond to climaterelated security risks, while regional stabilisation strategies continue to be driven by external actors. This is complicating responses to political tensions, violent conflicts and complex humanitarian emergencies. These strategies need to move beyond reacting to conflict incidents and address underlying conflict issues and structures, with greater regional coordination and cooperation.
Key message 2. Governance is an entry point for addressing climate-related security risks and building cooperation Governance is an entry point for addressing climate-related security risks and building cooperation between livelihood groups, communities, authorities, businesses and more. To address climate-related security risks, conflict resolution needs to be integrated into the logic of climate adaptation. To achieve this, there is a need for dialogue spaces on the shared management of natural resources, more inclusive governance of natural resources, and better integration of local resource management practices with relevant national legislation.
Key message 3. Resilience to climate-related security risks must be built with an inclusive, bottom-up approach Climate-related security risks have implications for individuals, communities, and states in West Africa – as well as the organisations charged with responding. But top-down decision-making alone cannot address the region’s overlapping crises. Climaterelated security risks need to be connected to local priorities and translated into the language used in local policies. Conflict responses should address foundational human security issues and climate vulnerabilities, and shore up the ways people organise, govern and adapt.
Key message 4. Address climate-related security risks through iterative responses, acting and learning in tandem Climate change and security in West Africa are urgent challenges that require iterative responses: acting and learning in the same process. Important gaps remain in knowledge of climate vulnerabilities in the region. Limited coordination and collaboration between responses to climate change and security undermine the potential for positive outcomes. To address these gaps, there is a need to identify, connect and scale up resilience-building and peacebuilding successes, build capacity in local research and adapt funding to meet evolving challenges.
This policy brief is originally published by Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
By Kheira Tarif