20 September 2018

UN report calls for action on root causes Lake Chad crisis

In one of his first major acts, the UN Secretary General António Guterres has today released a report on the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region. The report will be used as a back drop to discussions in the UN Security Council this week. The report calls for key countries to work up a regional plan to identify and address the root causes of the crisis in the hope to the UN system can make head way into solving what some say is the world’s most extensive humanitarian crises.

So far more than 17 million people have been affected by the violent Lake Chad crisis which is touching communities in Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria with over 10 million currently needing humanitarian assistance, according to the report. This comes as competition for natural resources is heating up, in an already fragile and violent environment.

These factors have created a space which allowed terrorist group Boko Haram to thrive. The report claims the conflict has displaced more than 2.4 million people.

The report was commissioned by the UNSC earlier this year as part of a resolution which outlined their concern about the interplay of factors leading to the crisis there. It called for better collaboration amongst UN agencies armed to deal with the situation. It was passed after 15 UN Security Council diplomats headed to the Lake Chad basin to see the dire situation themselves.

However, while the call for a plan is welcome, the report focuses predominantly on the humanitarian crisis, the rise of Boko Haram and the response by international funders to that crisis.

It is much lighter on the need to understand the climate and environmental dimensions of the crisis, and how they impact livelihoods and economic opportunities in the region, increasing the marginalisation of vulnerable groups. This is despite the report acknowledging there's been a significant drop in yields from fisheries and crops in irrigated areas around the lake.

Studies have shown these complex intractable problems like the Lake Chad crisis will only be solved by rolling out durable solutions that are sensitive to these environmental changes.

And we know that if these proposed solutions are executed well, they can reduce internal displacement, migration and recruitment to terror groups.

Failure to make these solutions robust puts longer term sustainability at risk. Last week, a UNDP report shows that loss of livelihoods and economic opportunities is one of the main reasons men cite for joining terror groups. Climate change is considered a factor contributing to the loss of livelihood by its impact on available land, food and water resources.

Climate change as threat multiplier has been noticed amongst others by Sweden. According to Ambassador Carl Skau “the effects of climate change and its links to the stability and security of the region are evident. We cannot hide from this reality if we want to truly address the challenges in the region. The lack of follow-up on this area in the Secretary-General’s report once again underlines the need for improved risk assessments and risk management strategies by the UN, as clearly highlighted by the Security Council in UNSCR 2349. The Council must remain alert to the threats to stability as a result of the adverse effects of climate change.”

The discussion in the UN Security Council comes after a conference in February sought to encourage donors to stump up $1.5 billion to solve the crisis, but the complex nature of the crisis meant it has rolled on, leaving millions exposed.

Spokespeople + Resources

adelphi – the think tank which was commissioned by the German Presidency of the G7 in 2015 to author the seminal report, New Climate For Peace, on the way in which climate change has become a threat multiplier in crises like Lake Chad – has launched a short film which reveals some of those complexities through interviews with those who are at the forefront of the crisis.

Along with those showcased in the film, adelphi managing director Alexander Carius toured the Lake Chad region in May 2017 with a delegation of WFP representatives and is available to speak on his first-hand experiences on the ground. The purpose of the scoping mission was to better understand the complex interplay of different risk factors that result into suffering and instability. It is clear that climate change, resource depletion, ethnic diversity, poverty, hunger, marginalization, gender inequality all contribute to severe fragility.

These issues will also be discussed at the upcoming Planetary Security Conference in The Hague in December.