12 December 2018

New milestones for climate in UN Security Council

Following the Swedish led debate at the Security Council in July, climate security has now become more mainstream and is included more automatically in new Council resolutions, presidential statements or mandate for missions in conflict-prone territories where climate change increases stresses. Even with some of the UN Security Council members’ still lukewarm about including climate-security into the agenda, the topic has found its way in and is promoted fiercely by the European members, Small Islands States and others who are concerned about this imminent threat.

The upcoming German non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2019 and 2020 should follow the path already established by the Netherlands and Sweden thus maintaining climate security on the agenda. Other incoming members, notably Belgium, the Dominican Republic, and Indonesia, are expected to support the agenda as well, the latter having a vast interest in the climate-security situation of small islands. South Africa might be called upon by other African nations to stand up for this content when it comes to the many climate-related security pressures over there.

The current new developments are the following:

  1. A new resolution on AMISOM, the UNSC mandated AU mission in Somalia

Following an acknowledgment of the adverse effects of climate change on Somalia stability through the Resolution 2408 earlier this year, the mandate of AMISOM has been updated consequently. According to the Security Council Report article, the Kingdom of the Netherlands has advocated to include language recognizing the adverse effect of climate change, ecological changes and natural disasters, among other factors, on the stability in Somalia. Notwithstanding the position of some members, that Council engagement on this issue encroaches on the prerogatives of other UN organs, the final resolution included this language, while also emphasizing the need for adequate risk assessment and risk management strategies in this regard by governments and the UN, as mentioned by the.

  1. A new Presidential Statement by the Security Council on the UNOWAS mandate

Several references to climate change, that reaffirm the previous statement on UNOWAS are now included in its successor. According to the statement: “The Security Council recognizes the adverse effects of climate change, ecological changes and natural disasters among other factors on the stability of West Africa and the Sahel region, including through drought, desertification, land degradation and food insecurity, continues to stress the need for long-term strategies by governments and the United Nations, based on risk assessments, to support stabilization and build resilience, and further requests that such information be taken into consideration by UNOWAS in its activities.”

  1. The Pacific Island Forum push forward with the longstanding issue of the appointment of a special envoy for climate security at the General-Secretariat

Since 2009 the Pacific Islands have asked for a climate-security special envoy at the UN and in their most recent meeting, they agreed to make this ask more specific and effectively asking for 2 new positions. During a meeting in Nauru in early September 2018, the Pacific Islands Forum “Leaders requested the United Nations Secretary-General to appoint a Special Adviser on climate change and security. Furthermore, Leaders called on the United Nations Security Council to appoint a special rapporteur to produce a regular review of global, regional and national security threats caused by climate change.” While the question of a special adviser for the UNSG has been brought under the spotlight previously by the EU, the will to appoint a special rapporteur has been mentioned for the first time. It may be an interesting idea to allow more knowledge and evidence on climate-security to enter into UNSC discussions.