At the Future Force Conference on 9 and 10 February 2017, held at the World Forum in The Hague, one break-out session was devoted to the need to integrate natural resource issues in security analyses and military planning and operations.
Organised by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Hague Center for Strategic Studies (HCSS) the more general theme was how integrated ‘big data’ can help to anticipate and prevent geopolitical interstate conflict.
A special focus was given to the impacts of climate change on water availability and as a push factor for migration. The risk of water conflicts in South Asia was discussed by Major General (ret.) Muniruzzaman from Bangladesh, Chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACCC). Dr. Najib Saab, Secretary General of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development described the water and migration challenges in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Alexander Verbeek, Chairman of the PSI Advisory Board, pointed to the security aspects of the increased accessibility of the natural resources of the Arctic as a result of the fast warming of that region, and the need for the various navies to take these aspects into account.
Apart from climate change impacts, poor water management practices in many regions and political ”short-termism” were identified as causes for tensions between communities, regions and countries. Governments should give the military an explicit mission to guard the environment and should realise that climate and water are global common goods, superseding the boundaries of the Westphalian system of political governance. Also, of course, the military should do whatever they can to reduce their own environmental “bootprint”.
Co-organiser Kitty van der Heijden of WRI said there is no security without water security and Major General Muniruzzaman expressed the fear that future conflicts will be fought over water.