15 September 2021
  • climate security
  • Europe

How could the OSCE step up its climate security involvement?

A new SIPRI paper sets out the current and future role of climate security with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE is a regional security body that encompasses 57 states across Europe, North America and Asia. It was formed out of a cold war era body that sought to facilitate dialogue between Europe and the communist bloc and today serves the role of conflict prevention and the protection of democracy. Already in 1997, a sub-body was founded which sought to assess environmental security risks. The OSCE’s 2007 Madrid Declaration on Environment and Security recognised the threat of climate change. Since then, the OSCE has seen the formation of advocacy groups (like the OSCE Group of Friends of Environment) that recognise the link between climate change and security and launched a project that seeks to map climate security hotspots worldwide. The OSCE has also set up conferences about climate change and centres in participating states which seek to foster dialogue about environmental challenges and conflict.

Nonetheless, despite a sense of growing momentum of the importance of climate security among OSCE member states, there are a few states in the OSCE which are less warm on the issue, meaning it is not as explored as it could be. With this in mind, there are a few ways that the OSCE could improve its role in addressing climate security.

Firstly, the OSCE could agree to new commitments on climate security. There have been no new major decisions taken by the Ministerial Council on climate change and climate security in recent years. Commitments to increase risk assessment, knowledge exchange capacity and work with international partners would show that climate-related security risks can be addressed through coordinated action.

Secondly, the OSCE could engage in further agenda setting. Although gaining full consensus on issues like climate change and security from all participating states is difficult, the creation of advocacy coalitions within the OSCE has shown that the issue can still be addressed. Membership of this group could be expanded, more extra-budgetary projects relating to climate security could be funded by it and knowledge networks that bond international experts with local stakeholders and governments could be set up.

Thirdly, the mandate of OSCE institutions like the Office of the Coordinator of Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) could be expanded. The OCEEA has already been involved with several projects relating to climate risk and expanding climate-related security risk assessments into other programmes would be a natural progression. The OSCE could also contribute to international bodies like the UN Climate Security mechanism by, for example, providing specific climate security information on the OSCE region.

Fourthly, existing resources could be developed. The OSCE’s existing resources could be recalibrated in order to bring an increased focus on climate security. Their Aarhus centres in participating nations could expand their focus to bring in climate security rather than mainly environmental issues. The OSCE field missions could be altered to take climate security matters into consideration as well. Furthermore, the OSCE could appoint a senior diplomat from one of its participating states to act as a special representative for climate security.


The paper link is here

Photo Credit: OSCE/ Flickr