Climate and conflicts: What do EPLO member organisations say about it?

By Manon Levrey

On Saturday 21 September, people all over the world marked the 2019 International Day of Peace, one day after thousands also took part in marches to demand action on climate change.

The theme of this year’s Peace Day was ‘Climate Action for Peace’. In the statement which she made to mark the occasion, EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, acknowledged that “climate change multiplies threats to peace and security as it adds pressure to already fragile livelihoods and destabilises local communities and their environments”.

Similarly, twelve of EPLO’s member organisations (Conciliation Resources, the Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid (Cordaid), the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflicts, International Alert, Interpeace, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Pax Christi International, Peace Direct, the Quaker Council for European Affairs, Saferworld, Search for Common Ground, and Swisspeace) signed a joint statement entitled ‘People, Planet.. and Peace’ in which they called for global climate action and increased efforts towards peace.

Here is an overview of some of the other things which our members have published about climate and conflict in recent years:

The Berghof Foundation’s online glossary reminds us that it was during the 1970s and 1980s that climate change was first considered – together with resource scarcity and under-development, as a non-military global risk which could trigger armed conflicts.

During the Stockholm World Water week in 2017, Cordaid presented the ‘Climate and Conflict Nexus’ using the case of farmers in South Sudan. Cordaid also participated in the 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 22) where it advocated for climate-resilient agriculture.

In this essay from July 2019, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD Centre) looked at ways in which mediators can work with climate change.

Since 2007, Christian Aid has led a climate change campaign in which it tries to remind banks that they can also help to fight climate change and urge the UK’s biggest banks and the World Bank, to direct their investments away from fossil fuels and into clean, renewable sources of energy.

In this March 2019 paper, Conciliation Resources identified three potential climate change-related conflict issues in the Solomon Islands.

During its annual conference in 2019, Concordis International and its partners discussed how peacebuilders and humanitarian actors can make better use of climate science to prevent crises rather than merely reacting to them.

In this ‘Peace Talks’ podcast, which was recorded in June 2019, Crisis Management Initiative Project Officer Maria Ristimäki, reminded listeners about the lack of a broad consensus on how climate change influences the onset or dynamics of armed conflicts whilst at the same time highlighting how those countries which are currently experiencing the most severe effects of climate change are often extremely fragile and more subject to armed conflicts. In this 2018 article, Communications Manager, Antti Ämmälä, suggested that future wars could be fought over water. And most recently, five days before Peace Day 2019, the Crisis Management Initiative shared the following three things which people should know about climate change and conflict.

This paper from June 2015, written by Chatham House Associate Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources Oli Brown and European Institute of Peace Executive Director Michael Keating, looks into the role of the international community in national and sub-national resource disputes resolution, highlighting the importance to build local capacities and support countries’ ability to resolve their own conflicts.

Writing on the Council Community blog in 2018, ESSEC IRENÉ Director, Professor Dr Aurélien Colson, examined climate change as a challenge to be tackled in business schools whose students (i.e. future managers) should learn authentic, responsible and sustainable business practices.

In February 2019, the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict published a UN Update about the nexus between climate change and international peace and security.

The Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace has helped the UK organisation OneWorld to set up a platform which showcases innovative spaces and useful tools to enable individuals to communicate their experiences, insights, questions and answers about climate change.

In an interview, which was recorded in 2018, International Alert’s former Adviser on Natural Resource Management and Climate Change, Shreya Mitra, stressed that conflicts over natural resources in Mali affect the whole Sahel region.

Speaking at the opening of the Bucerius Summer School on Global Governance in 2008, former International Crisis Group President and CEO, Gareth Evans, reflected on what he believed could and could not be said about the relationship between climate change and conflict.

Interpeace highlighted the links between natural resources and conflict in this 2015 article. It also used the example of Somaliland in a 2008 article to illustrate the role which dialogue and mediation can play in diffusing tensions around natural resources.

During the Civil Society Forum Belgrade of the Western Balkans Summit in 2016, the Kosovar Centre for Security Studies defended the role of a united civil society in tackling the environmental and climate change agenda.

In 2015, the Life & Peace Institute devoted an issue of its ‘New Routes’ journal to the topic of water as a source of both development and conflict.

The co-founder of Nonviolent Peaceforce, Mel Duncan, wrote a blogpost in May 2019 in which he stated that “climate disruption is mainly hitting the poorest people in the world – those who consume the least.”

Similarly, in this July 2019 report, Oxfam International illustrated how smallholder farmers and women (60% of the world’s chronically hungry people in 2009) were disproportionately affected by the 2007-08 food price crisis.

In 2015, Pax Christi International signed a declaration on climate change in which they and other NGOs emphasised the need for a treaty to protect the planet.

In this article, which was published on the occasion of Earth Day 2017, Peace Direct shed light on three organisations which foster partnerships between the climate and the peacebuilding communities.

Similarly, in its 2011 briefing paper, the Quaker Council for European Affairs initiated a discussion on the need for cross-sectoral collaboration and policy coherence between climate change, energy, external action (including conflict prevention), trade, economic policy and international development.

In 2009, Saferworld published a report in which it illustrated the role which climate change played in affecting the distribution and prevalence of natural resources in Kenya.

In this 2017 paper, Search for Common Ground used the example of Nepal to highlight the major challenges involved in translating existing policy instruments into functional programmes for addressing climate issues.

In its 2018 report about the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s (SDC) efforts to address the Climate-Conflict Nexus’, Swisspeace stated that if water could contribute to conflict, it could also be a source of reconciliation, and that concerted water management could make a positive contribution to peacebuilding.

And finally, in a 2009 publication which may well touch upon the very heart of the subject, World Vision International’s Chief Economist, Dr Brett Parris, highlighted the (hopefully no longer existent) lack of political will to tackle climate issues.

Manon Levrey is Programme Assistant at EPLO, working on the CSDN project and supporting the organisation’s Communications Strategy.


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