31 July 2023

Pacific Climate Security Assessment Guide

Forum Leaders, through the Boe Declaration, have defined climate change as “the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific”.

This is one of the most comprehensive statements on the link between climate change and human security globally. It highlights the way climate change affects every dimension of Pacific countries’ governance, external relations, identity and culture, threatening livelihoods, social cohesion, land, food, water, health, economies, and posing significant risks for individual, community, national and regional stability.

In some cases, these risks are already manifesting into increased social pressure and disputes resulting in the erosion of social norms that guide community life, and, ultimately, pose key questions around a future that seems deeply uncertain for Pacific countries and its communities.

If left unexplored and unaddressed, these interactions could cause further social discord, leading to social or political instability, or even violent conflict. Understanding and addressing those risks is an essential step to challenges that are new and complex in nature.

This Assessment Guide, developed through extensive consultation with regional specialists, key regional institutions, civil society and with Forum member representatives, aims to support the region’s effort to unpack those risks so that appropriate responses can be put in place.

It particularly targets national and subnational governments from Forum Member countries while also constituting an important reference for a broader range of stakeholders, including international organizations, regional bodies and interested individuals and practitioners. In alignment to the Boe Declaration Action Plan, it responds to Pacific countries’ need to have a context specific methodology to identify local climate security priorities that can inform decision making at different levels.

This methodology, based on the global “Weathering risks”, is included in section 4 named the “Guide on how to conduct Climate Security Assessments”. This constitutes the core part of this document and it includes a description of the analytical approach (including conceptual foundations, main elements of analysis, methods and tools, and how to identify responses) as well as guiding questions that users can adapt and/or adopt when conducting their own climate security assessments.

While this Assessment Guide was not conceived to, and is not designed to constitute a comprehensive regional climate security risk assessment (doing so would not be helpful given the diverse nature of climate risks present in individual Pacific Islands Countries), a section describing the main climate security pathways in the region has been included as section 2, to reinforce understanding of the predominate climate security trends across the breadth of the Blue Pacific Continent, and to provide a sound starting point for countries to then contextualize the analysis at a national or local level.

The identified regional climate security pathways cover five themes:

• How climate change challenges Pacific livelihood and its blue economy;

• The way climate change threatens land availability and usability, putting pressure on food, water and health security;

• How climate risks exacerbate disasters and erode the resilience of vulnerable groups and governments;

• The way climate change affects mobility trends and related risks and finally,

• The urgency that climate change creates to secure maritime boundaries and sovereignty and how climate change could undermine regional stability.

Suggested practices and approaches are described in section 3, as a way to outline the forms of action regional actors, Forum Members, and international partners could take to ensure plans, policies, and interventions are more informed by climate security considerations. They are not meant to be prescriptive or comprehensive (the diversity of Forum Members’ national contexts prohibits this). Rather, they aim to provide ideas and options to guide further actions by relevant stakeholders.

Building on other existing regional analytical approaches and frameworks, and extensive knowledge and expertise already present in the region, the Assessments Guide’s value-add is its emphasis on exploring the relationship between context, climate impacts, and security risks, and their collective security implications.

The key message underlying this Assessment Guide is its attempt to challenge the traditional view of security and to broaden the understanding of how diverse security threats in the Pacific are.

In doing so, the Assessment Guide is intended to encourage decision makers and the international community to think outside the box and to find innovative ways to respond to challenges that are new and very complex in nature, bringing new players onto the scene, and even reconsider how traditional responses to security threats have been managed thus far.

Ultimately, this Assessment Guide is intended as a contribution to the far-reaching effort required to achieve the Forum Leaders’ vision of a safe, secure and prosperous region for Pacific Peoples.

This is the executive summary of the full report by the UNDP and PIFS. The full report can be found here

Photo credit: Flickr/Ray in Manila