15 December 2017

Planetary Security community walks the talk on action at third annual conference

This year’s Planetary Security Conference changed the game on the issue of climate and security with the launch of The Hague Declaration. The six point plan has been signed by over 70 high profile experts, from ministers to ambassadors, mayors, generals and academics in the field, seeks to move the agenda from knowledge to action. Clingendael director Monika Sie Dhian Ho told the opening plenary that the Declaration will help strengthen and deepen the work of the community moving forward. Key highlights of the conference and the Hague Declaration can be seen in the Best of PSC 2017 video.

The conference – attended by 350 experts - came at the end of a year of ongoing and worsening political conflict and humanitarian crises including the devastating ones unfolding in Lake Chad, Iraq and Mali which were the focus regions for the two days. These crises have been aggrevated by natural resource scarcity, according to Sie Dhian Ho.

Iraq’s Minister for Water Hassan Janabi said his country – which is now finally entering a process of stabilisation - was going through an additional “painful cultural change” as a result of a dwindling water resources due to climate change driven drought and related changes in rainfall patterns and control of the natural water flows by neighbouring countries. “Iraq is at a huge turning point – we’ve just ended the war with ISIS, but it depleted our coffers so that my infrastructure budget is zero. More than 100,000 of our people have been fighting ISIS, but now they are out of work and will go back to their farms, but the water shortage will make it hard. On top of that we experienced an extreme earthquake which put a major dam out of service. So we may struggle to provide safe drinking water to the population. These are severe problems,” Janabi said.

Many participants acknowledged the need to tackle  root causes of such crises in order to prevent relapse.

Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director of UN Environment said “we are good at humanitarian and military responses but we are not good at identifying and addressing root causes and as a result peace processes collapse.” “The solution is to promote resilience on the ground, create jobs locally, drive sustainable investments and create hope,” he said. This was echoed by Lt.-Gen. Esa Pulkkinen, Director-General of the EU Military Staff, who connected the need to address climate-related drivers of insecurity to migration. “It’s a longer term commitment but its good for everyone,” he said. Lt.-Gen. Jan Broeks, Director of the International Military Staff at NATO, added that climate change is also a main factor in driving instability because it makes space for terrorism. He said organisations like NATO could help countries become more resilient by strengthening their security operations.

Speaking from experience, Hamsatu Allamin, a gender activist, advocate and human rights defender from Nigeria, said even before Boko Haram arrived, climate change driven drought and water had driven youth from the land and left them unemployed in the city, and therefore open to recruitment by the terrorist organization, or forced them to migrate. This was echoed by Rhissa Feltou, Mayor of Agadez. “Agadez is at a crossroads of climate change and migration and security changes,” he told the crowd. “It’s creating a great crisis in our communities. Drought means young people find it difficult to get jobs. We’d like to find solutions to get the youth back to work on their land.”

Solutions could include programs such as those on land degradation and economic opportunities run by Ayan Mahamoud, IDDRSI Regional Coordinator for Programming and KM, Intergovernmental Authority on Development. Explaining their experience, she said: “We learnt we have to be bold, beyond innovative and humble. We need to work with all partners and try new ways to pool funding.”

Sherri Goodman, the former US undersecretary of defense, who coined the term “threat multiplier” to describe the impact of climate change on security said there was a tendency for decision makers to “deal with the wolf closest to the sled”. This had meant that climate change was often relegated down the list of priorities. However, as a result of thought leadership in this space, and the fact that impacts are hitting home, risk management approach to climate and security have gained traction. The climate wolf is closer to the sled than it has been,” Goodman said. “A range of new tools from artificial intelligence and open data is now available to enable us to integrate systemic threats like climate change.”

Hans Mommaas from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency added systemic knowledge had gone from being the provision of academics to being open and therefore changing the debate. “Social, ecological and economic models are shifting to become more open and informative for policy-making. One development is the from the international to the regional level” he said.

Key also is finding new financing mechanisms to help solutions flow to those in need. James Close, Director, Climate Change at the  World Bank, said the institution was trying to bust the silo between policy, analysis and finance. He pointed to insurance schemes, climate vulnerability assessments and green bonds as some examples of these programs. While start-up Energy for Peace Partners was looking to create a new financing mechanism to help drive the roll out of renewable energy to power peacekeeping and humanitarian projects in the most fragile high conflict zones. Fragile countries at present do not have the economic incentives on offer for investors to attract renewable energy projects, whereas humanitarian organisations still spend a lot on diesel, according to Dave Mozersky of Energy for Peace Partners..

Looking forward, Pieter Jan Kleiweg de Zwaan of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said his government, together with the Swedes and the Italians, will host an Arria Format meeting at the UN Security Council climate and security on 15 December 2017. Support for an institutional home for climate and security in the UN was gaining ground and the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs would bring the Hague Declaration on Planetary Security to New York.

But there’s still much more to do to deepen the agenda. Throughout the year there have been positive developments in the climate and security space including acknowledgements in national and global fora, policies and strategies. Examples include the Australian Senate Enquiry into the issue, the EU’s new strategy for promoting resilience, and the Lake Chad UN Security Council resolution and subsequently announced comprehensive risk assessment.

The Planetary Security Conference ended with the hope that the surge of momentum around the Declaration would help drive the agenda in the year ahead.