17 March 2021
  • South Sudan
  • climate security

Pathways of climate-conflict in South Sudan & recommendations for peace

A new report by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs finds troubling potential drivers of conflict stemming from South Sudan’s vulnerability to climate change. It begins by acknowledging that South Sudan is already feeling the adverse effects of climate change, with higher average temperatures and more erratic precipitation. These effects, combined with the fact that 95% of Sudanese people are reliant upon climate-dependent sources of income like rainfed agriculture and pastoralism, make Sudanese communities especially vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

The report argues that there are three key pathways through which climate change could cause conflict in South Sudan. The first is livelihood deterioration. Food and other resource scarcities are caused by climate-related events such as floods and droughts. These scarcities then feed conflicts like the cattle raiding and communal conflicts seen on the Warrap and Unity state border. Secondly, migration that is driven by floods or other climate events can cause conflict. This often happens because communities that receive migrants do not have enough resources to go around. Another concern is the risk of grievances from urban overcrowding caused by immigration turning violent. The third pathway arises from the complex situation surrounding political actors and armed groups in South Sudan. The complex web of political bodies and armed actors have different interests and allegiances. This means that communal violence, for example over resource scarcity, has become more militarized and deadly than elsewhere in Africa. Furthermore, climate change-related grievances arising from the aforementioned mechanisms are more likely to explode into violence in the fragile atmosphere following the 2018 peace agreement as there are as yet few mechanisms for peaceful conflict resolution.

In response to these risks, the report makes a number of recommendations:

  • The UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) should engage in capacity building with the South Sudanese government including establishing an early warning and response centre, building a weather station network across the country and deploying a UN Environment Programme climate-security advisor to support the government.
  • The South Sudanese government should strengthen its analytical capacity by bringing in all relevant stakeholders to produce climate security reviews that analyse data on the climate-security nexus. These reviews should pay special attention to the unique vulnerability of women to climate change and conflict and generally seek to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on security.
  • UNMISS should request funds to train its personnel to assess and respond to climate security risks in a fashion that incorporates all data and stakeholders and considers the gendered impact of climate stress.

Read the full report HERE

Photo credit: UNMISS/ Flickr