Peacebuilding, climate change and natural resource management

By Manon Levrey

This blog post was written in the framework of the online workshop ‘Integrating peacebuilding and climate change mitigation efforts in natural resource management’, as part of the online learning and exchange series Climate change, peacebuilding and human security’ organised by the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO), together with adelphi and the Climate Diplomacy initiative, with support from the German Federal Foreign Office.

In Marsabit County, Kenya, local communities have experienced changes in weather patterns, with reduced rain seasons and increased drought. Prolonged drought has led to scarcity in resources (mainly pasture and water) creating a shift in pastoral communities’ mobility patterns. The search for scarce resources increases inter-communal tensions and competition over access and control of depleting resources, which – if not well managed – often results in violent conflicts.

The local adaptive capacity of communities to climate change-related shocks, as well as social cohesion between communities need to be strengthened. To this end, World Vision Kenya programme IMARA (Integrated MAnagement of natural Resources for resilience in Arid and semi-arid lands), is:

  1. Establishing natural resource-based community enterprises such as beadwork, beekeeping, as well as harvesting gum and resins that support the sustained use and management of natural resources (providing alternative livelihoods, not depending on the livestock);
  2. Promoting sustainable management and rehabilitation of land, forest and water sources for strengthened ecosystem services (through Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration);
  3. Strengthening governance systems and structures for sustainable natural resource management (by bringing communities together for peace dialogues, holding duty bearers accountable for the management of natural resources, etc.).

Natural resources-based conflicts (over water, pasture and land-use) are sometimes made complex and multifaceted by non-climate push and pull factors, like unemployment, political tension, rising violent extremism, etc. These factors should be analysed and taken into account when developing and implementing a peacebuilding strategy, recognising the role of government in making sure all stakeholders are at the table – including those fueling the conflict. During peace meetings, relevant authorities should be present too (authorities responsible for unemployment, resources management, etc.) in order to ensure that these issues are addressed.

Cordaid’s work on resilience demonstrates that there is a need for an integrated approach, combining disaster risk reduction, climate adaptation, ecosystem and natural resource management, peacebuilding – and any other relevant sectors / stakeholders. Doing a conflict (risk) analysis, in addition to a participatory disaster risk analysis, has been found to be a crucial first step to enhance resilience in fragile and conflict-affected areas. A participatory risk analysis and joint action planning at the beginning of a project ensure the participation of different groups, including the marginalised ones (youth, women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, etc.). Through a vulnerability assessment, the most vulnerable households can be identified and targeted in the programming.

Sustainability of peace and climate change initiatives at the community level can best be achieved through strengthening local institutions that include women and youth leaders able to prevent and manage conflict on their own without external support. Young men (morans) are the primary actors of conflicts since they are responsible for the search of pasture and water during dry season. They should be actively involved in climate change adaptation and peacebuilding initiatives.

When it comes to resolving conflict and building peace, the traditional approach (informal) involves elders coming together to discuss and resolve an issue. It is important to recognise and integrate this indigenous knowledge and mechanism into the more formal approach of the government when planning peace meetings together with the communities. These traditional institutions are most of the time dominated by men, when men and women experience climate change-related shocks and effects of conflicts differently. There is need to give women more opportunities for decision making, empowering them to know their rights, feel supported and secure to have their voices heard without fear and intimidation. Their participation in meetings should not just ‘tick another box’, but reflect their active and meaningful participation in discussions, ensuring that their needs are recognised as being different from the men’s, and addressed. While gender is often mainstreamed and cross cutting, it also needs to be dealt as a standalone issue. The government budget and policy processes should reflect that, with enough resources allocated to specific programme activities that strengthen capacity building, and alternative and income-generating livelihoods for women and marginalised groups.

Natural resource-based conflict is a coping strategy for communities to respond to climate change-related shocks. Conflict is not a bad thing per se – it only becomes a bad thing when it turns into violence. Conflict can also be a key driver of change when used to cement inter-community interaction through integrating peacebuilding initiatives with resilience and climate change adaptation programming.

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