11 December 2018

UNSC reaffirms climate change as a driver of fragility and conflict

On March 31st, 2018, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously the Resolution 2408, reaffirming climate change as one of the factors that destabilize the region and induce conflict in Somalia.

The resolution, which was adopted when the Netherlands chaired the UNSC, is in line with the recent statements on the alarming shrinking of the Lake Chad and its consequences on the stability of the Sahel region and the emphasis on climate change as a risk factor in Western Africa, as underlined in a recent UNSC Presidential Statement (Read more about the UNSC debate on climate-security here). The next crucial step is to rapidly ensure the implementation of policies that can resolve the environmental pressures “risk nations” suffer from. Somalia per se, is, sadly, a prime example of the effect climate change can have on a very fragile region: a catalyzer for the reignition of conflicts.

Hoping to move from statements to actions, this new resolution will empower the efforts to merge development and humanitarian interventions with security concerns over the situation in the Horn of Africa. This resolution is a clear example of how environmental and climate issues drive hard security topics. Indeed, the adverse effect of climate change, ecological changes, and natural disasters amplify the ongoing land degradation, the desertification, the rising temperature as well as food insecurity can dampen efforts to sustain humanitarian and peacekeeping operations.

The climate security aspect is further amplified by the climate dependent subsistence many Somali citizens rely upon. Terrorist groups can co-opt individuals deprived of their livelihoods for their own interest. Scarce resources can empower grievances and greed among groups as well as reinforce a search for alternative livelihoods. Efforts to slow the onset of climate change would allow supporting efforts to reduce the influence groups like Al-Shahab or other Islamist organizations, hold in certain regions.

As seen in other cases of environmental-induced conflicts, internal or external migration can be forced upon those strained populations which can, in turn, amplify the existing tensions around scarce resources. Such cases of displacement, mostly caused by the ongoing violence, drought, and extreme heat, create concerns about human security and the possibility to uphold the rule of law by the Somali Government.

This new resolution is the next step toward acknowledging the intertwined link between security, climate change, and development. A spillover effect may now emerge toward other regions that could use support by the international community to confront the disruptive effects of climate change. The coming months will show how the Council position will impact the situation on the ground as well as how climate change linkages to security will be brought to the attention of the international community. This is in line with one of the six objectives of The Hague Declaration on Planetary Security to establish an institutional home for climate security at the UN.