14 February 2019

Munich Security Conference puts climate change and the Sahel on the security agenda ahead of PSC 2019

The most influential global figures in international security policy gathering this week (February 15-17) at MSC 2019 will consider climate change alongside issues of trade, arms control, transatlantic cooperation, technological innovation, and “a reshuffling of core pieces of the international order”. One of four regions of focus is the Sahel, where the effects of climate change and environmental degradation are adding “layers of vulnerability to an already fragile region” according to the Munich Security Report 2019.

The report and conference sets the scene for the Planetary Security Conference 2019, taking place just a few days later on 19-20 February in The Hague. There, policymakers from the diplomacy, defence and development sector with focus their attention squarely on this nexus of security risks emanating from climate change and other environmental stresses. Under the theme #Doable, attendees will review and plan practical measures as underpinned by the Agenda for Action of The Hague Declaration on Planetary Security signed in 2017.

Director General of the Clingendael Institute Monika Sie Dhian Ho, who will deliver the welcome address at the Planetary Security Conference, will also participate in the MSC 2019.

She will join German Chancellor Angela Merkel and 35 other heads of government and heads of state, as well as 50 foreign and 30 defence ministers and a multitude of international organisation representatives.

The increasing incorporation of climate-related risks into security policy has undergone a noticeable uptick in momentum in recent weeks. In January the UN Security Council held a full-day debate on the issue featuring speakers from over 80 member states, many of whom called for greater institutional capacity in the UNSC to mitigate and adapt to the security impacts of climate change. This followed environment-related risks dominating the World Economic Forum’s closing session and Global Risks Report 2019. A new report published today by the UK-based Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)meanwhile argues mainstream policy debates need to account for the potential of environmental breakdown to erode socioeconomic stability.

In a preview interview for MSC 2019, Oxford Professor for European Studies Timothy Garton Ash named climate change as the security challenge presenting the greatest opportunity for international cooperation today. “If we cannot get effective global collective action on that,” he asked, “what will we get it on?”

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The fifth edition of the Munich Security Report, published as a conversation starter in advance of the conference, concludes that “new management tools are needed to prevent a situation in which not much may be left to pick up”, according to MSC Chair Wolfgang Ischinger. In focussing on the Sahel region, the report notes the alarming increase in the number of children affected by conflict over recent decades. Also referenced is the “security traffic jam” due to increasing militarization and the number of local and international institutions now involved in the region.

A number of workshops at next week’s Planetary Security Conference will examine the Sahel and specifically Mali, one of its three spotlight regions. ‘From local conflicts to regional solutions’ will explore prospects for development and stability in Mopti, while ‘Joint Solutions for Water and Security Risks in Mali’ will focus on climate impacts on the Inner Niger Delta and their interaction with inter-communal conflicts.

These sessions will be informed by previous policy briefs from the Planetary Security Initiative including:

More broadly the Planetary Security Conference 2019 will garner practical commitments by guiding policy change and catalysing action on the ground to alleviate climate-security risks. See the full programme here.