Climate change and environmental degradation are increasingly shaping the security landscape with implications for peace and development. Research shows that climate change and environmental degradation can undermine development, exacerbate existing social, economic, and political stresses and increase the risk of conflict in fragile contexts. As a result, there has been recognizable interest by development organisations to integrate climate security and related risks into their policies and practice. However, despite some progress, challenges still remain.
To explore the challenges, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) organised a roundtable discussion during the 2022 Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development, centred on development challenges and solutions in addressing climate-related security risks. The main notable challenges from the discussion were:
- Lack of appropriate expertise;
- Difficulties translating conceptual understanding of climate-related security risks into concrete interventions; and
- Lack of adequate support and political attention on the topic.
This blog is a distillation of a policy brief on the role of development actors in responding to environment and security links which was published as an output of the roundtable discussion. To move the discussion forward, we aim to further explore:
- How climate-related security risks can be effectively integrated into development practice and
- What the hurdles and opportunities are of implementing development projects to address such risks.
These questions are put forward to stir up concrete ideas about addressing climate security with development.
Connecting different expertise
Because climate security spans across different sectors and expertise, effective interventions should also focus on integrated approaches. For example, climate adaptation projects that are not equitable may increase inequalities and worsen grievances in fragile communities. Similarly, peacebuilding efforts that do not consider environmental and climate factors may fall short in areas where climate and environmental degradation increase the risk of insecurity. The need for integrated approaches was also prominently recognised during the roundtable discussion. However, practitioners stated that it’s a challenging undertaking because they may not have the expertise to assess the links and be aware of the knowledge, approaches, methods, and tools from different fields. One of the practitioners stated,
“It can be a stretch for a peacebuilding organisation to work on climate issues because it can be quite technical, and we may not be knowledgeable about all the technicalities on land, water, climate, and environment issues.”
Some actors have already worked on integrating climate and environment issues in peacebuilding projects. For instance, the peacebuilding organisation International Alert has, in some cases, used climate change as a neutral convening power or entry point for dialogue. The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, which specialises in peace mediation and dialogue, has also included climate change and environmental issues in its work to resolve and prevent agro-pastoralist conflicts in Mali and in the Sahel. Two pilot projects conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme and the European Union in Sudan and Nepal integrated climate change adaptation and resilience building into conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts. Similarly, a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded project in the Sahel worked with herders and farmers in Niger to reach agreements on shared use of natural resources. These projects all had a positive impact in reducing natural resource related conflicts.
To advance the integration, there is need for new knowledge, approaches and collaboration to help practitioners connect the links between climate and security. This, however, requires a recognition that the outcomes or activities that they lead to may be uncertain.
Support and incentives
To facilitate effective integration of climate security links in development practice, practitioners working on the ground need to be adequately supported by donor organisations. A key takeaway from the discussion was the need to explicitly incentivise the uptake and integration of climate security.
This includes long-term flexible funding commitments that encourage the building of partnerships and knowledge across the climate, environment, conflict and peacebuilding fields; encouraging and promoting conflict-sensitive adaptation and mitigation efforts; and conducting peacebuilding interventions that are sensitive to climate risks.
Donors can incentivize the creation of new partnerships by making the need for combined expertise explicit in funding requirements and by allowing practitioners to spend time on and budget for, getting acquainted with each other’s approaches, identifying common ground and developing joint programmes that build on the strengths of each other.
Looking ahead: Need for continuous learning
Practitioners and implementers hold a unique opportunity to tailor climate security interventions to local contexts. By better understanding the local context they’re working in, they don’t merely create more tailored interventions; they also increase the field’s understanding of the diversity of tools that can be utilised in addressing climate security. As the climate security field is relatively new, continuous learning and information sharing from the ground up is integral to advancing the integration of climate security in development practice. The examples already available can be used to gain a better understanding of what approaches have worked well in connecting the different environment and climate and security elements in practical projects. It is important that the lessons and experiences are made accessible to all.
Platforms such as Connexus can be important in connecting different practitioners and sharing lessons of practical projects on climate security. Existing practices and processes to support the integration can be refined through the continuous learning and feedback loop on best practices and challenges.
For development practitioners new to this field and those already working in the climate security space, we would like to stir up a conversation on a) how can climate related security risks be effectively integrated into development practice and 2) what are some of the opportunities or hurdles of implementing development projects to address such risks. Share your thoughts, ideas and experiences!
Katongo Seyuba is a Research Assistant with the Climate Change and Risk Programme at SIPRI
Dr. Karen Meijer is a Senior Researcher with the Climate Change and Risk Programme at SIPRI
This blog is a featured piece of the Climate Security: Finding Shared Solutions to Shared Challenges knowledge-sharing campaign. Click here to learn more.
Image Courtesy: Tim J Keegan (www.flickr.com/photos/suburbanbloke/382020681), Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic | Flickr