24 October 2023

Climate, Peace and Security in Latin America and the Caribbean - Policy Note

From unprecedented floods to record-breaking heatwaves, the impacts of the climate crisis are more evident than ever. Rising temperatures, more severe and frequent extreme weather events, and erratic rainfall are driving biodiversity loss, affecting food prices, undermining livelihoods, and have been linked to increasing social and gender inequalities and large-scale displacement. In many coastal areas, sea level rise is fast becoming an existential threat and is raising questions regarding maritime boundaries and national identity.

While we are only beginning to understand the wider impact of climate change on ecosystems, societies, institutions, and infrastructure, we know that it compounds structural weaknesses, has a differentiated impact, and hits hardest where coping capacities are already compromised. For example, 12 of the 20 countries most vulnerable and least prepared to adapt to were in conflict in 2020 and countries affected by violence receive less climate finance, on average.

Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is particularly vulnerable as it holds 13 of the 50 countries identified as most affected by the climate emergency. Because of climate impacts, up to 17 million people may be internally displaced by 2050.

As the pace of climate change accelerates, its impact on peace and security has become an important element of the broader discourse. Yet, the global evidence base on climate-related security risks remains limited, as do examples of initiatives at scale.

This policy note takes a pragmatic approach to describing how UNDP might engage with climate, peace and security in LAC and identify possible points of entry. By identifying regional characteristics, it integrates six specific regional characteristics/factors into the formulation of policy options:

  1. LAC will be hard hit by climate change
  2. LAC is highly affected by Insecurity and transnational crime
  3. Inequality
  4. LAC exhibits high levels of political instability and social conflict
  5. LAC is a biodiversity ‘’superpower’’
  6. Latin America is key to the global energy transition

The interaction of these factors may shape the climate, peace and security agenda for LAC. For example, the combination of insecurity and climate change means paying close attention to the effect of weather change on citizen security, particularly in urban areas.

In order to determine pathways and entry points, the policy note examines the effect of climate impact on conflict & security dynamics as well as the way in which insecurity and conflict affect climate change & environment. Based on these interactions policy options are formulated.

For example, Organised crime causes environmental degradation as direct result of activity (environmental crimes like logging, mining, illegal fishing) or indirect result (land grabbing for money laundering and territorial control, opening roads through protected areas). In response, the following is proposed as a policy option:

‘’Promoting integrated approaches to tackling illegal and illicit destruction of strategic ecosystems by aligning security and justice with institutional capacity, addressing structural factors and market drivers, and combining different funding mechanisms to deliver peace and environment co-benefits.’’

Finally, the policy brief proposes a set of ‘Suggested Priorities’:

  1. Integrating climate change into peace and security policies and vice versa
  2. Integrating adaptation and environmental peacebuilding
  3. Helping states to manage human mobility related to climate change
  4. Strengthen civilian, security and justice institutions to tackle environmental crime and protect environmental defenders
  5. Mainstreaming conflict sensitivity into climate and biodiversity action

These priorities are substantiated in the Policy Note, which you can read and download here. It was published by UNDP and published on 1 August 2023. It was developed under the supervision of Jairon Acuña-Alfaro, Team leader, Governance and Lyes Ferroukhi, Team leader, Environment.

Photo credit: Flickr/ CIFOR