01 August 2022

Climate stress & civilian targeting in the Sahel: Between violence & opportunity

New data and case-based evidence suggests that locations with seasonal climate variations may face a higher risk of civilian targeting than locations with permanent harsh climatic conditions. Focusing on the Sahel and the Sahara Desert transition zone, this report develops a conditional policy framework to better understand the causes of and improve preparedness for climate-driven civilian targeting by armed actors.

This issue brief argues that the relationship between climatic stressors and environmental conditions is moderated: violence increases in climate-harsh regions – where incentives for violence over resources are higher – but only during months where environmental security levels are higher, which prompts armed actors to loot agricultural resources and use violence to this end. We hypothesize that while climate-harsh locations are more likely to induce willingness on the part of the military, rebels, and militias to engage in violence along resource scarcity lines, they will only act on these incentives when environmental conditions improve. In these times, more resources are available, facilitating military operations and allowing groups and military organizations – especially those living off locally-sourced food and other resources – to support their troops effectively.


Written by Britt Koehnlein and Ore Koren. The policy paper was first published by STIMSON in June 2022. Read the full report here 
Photo Credits: CIF Action/ Flickr