By J Nastranis
People and countries most vulnerable to climate change also are most vulnerable to terrorist recruitment and violence, speakers in an open debate told the Security Council on December 9, as the 15-nation United Nations organ considered a draft resolution proposed by Niger and Ireland. The Council was considering a draft resolution, co-sponsored by Niger (Council President for December) and Ireland.
The resolution would request the Secretary-General to integrate climate-related security risk as a central component into comprehensive conflict-prevention strategies of the United Nations, to contribute to the reduction of the risk of conflict relapse due to adverse effects of climate change.
Environmental degradation enables armed groups to extend their influence and manipulate resources to their advantage, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council, highlighting that conflict-prevention initiatives need to factor in climate risks.
“We are in a race against the clock, and no one is safe from the destructive effects of climate disruption,” Guterres said. Droughts and increasingly extreme meteorological phenomena are threatening food security and access to scarce resources in Somalia, Madagascar, Sudan, the Middle East and North Africa.
The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that climate change could increase the risk of famine and malnutrition by up to 20 per cent by 2050. Similarly, the World Bank predicts that climate change could lead to the displacement of more than 200 million people in that timeframe.
Regions that are most vulnerable to climate change often also suffer from insecurity, poverty, weak governance and the scourge of terrorism. Of the 15 countries most exposed to climate risks, eight host a United Nations peacekeeping or special political mission.
When climate disruption hinders institutions from providing public services, it fuels grievances and mistrust towards authorities, he continued. In the Lake Chad basin region, Boko Haram gained new recruits, particularly from local communities disillusioned by lack of economic opportunity. In central Mali, terrorist groups have exploited the growing tensions between herders and farmers to recruit.
In Iraq and Syria, terrorist group Daesh, also known as ISIL, has exploited water shortages and taken control of water infrastructure to impose its will on communities, while in Somalia charcoal production provides a source of income for Al-Shaabab, the UN Secretary-General explained during a debate on Security, in the Context of Terrorism and Climate Change.
Citing his report on Our Common Agenda, Guterres underlined areas requiring deeper collective action. Emphasizing that conflicts result from deep societal fractures, including poverty, human rights violations, poor governance and the collapse of essential public services—and, more broadly, a loss of hope for the future—he called first for a focus on prevention and addressing root causes of insecurity.
It is crucial to promote inclusive governance, leverage local expertise and amplify the voices of women and young people everywhere. “Studies show that when women participate in negotiations, peace is more sustainable. And when they are involved in legislation, they adopt better policies for the environment and social cohesion,” he pointed out.
Turning to increasing investments in adaptation and resilience, he said that with annual adaptation costs in developing countries estimated at $70 billion, rising to $300 billion a year by 2030, developed countries must uphold promises to provide at least $100 billion per year to developing countries.
He cited the ambitious Great Green Wall initiative, which is reviving degraded landscapes in the Sahel in order to improve food security, create jobs and promote peacebuilding. Further, the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund is investing in innovative initiatives, including addressing water scarcity in Yemen. However, it is still far from reaching critical mass.
He explained that, while a third of the global population lacks early warning systems, the Climate Security Mechanism is strengthening the capacity of field missions, country teams and regional and subregional organizations in that domain” He also highlighted the “Regional strategy for the stabilization, recovery and resilience of the Boko Haram-affected areas of the Lake Chad basin region”, jointly developed by the African Union, Lake Chad Basin Commission, United Nations and other partners, to integrate humanitarian action, security, development and climate resilience.
Similarly, the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel has launched, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This initiative promotes an integrated and coordinated approach to climate security in the region and supports the Economic Community of West African States, Governments and local authorities in their risk-reduction efforts.
The fight against terrorism and conflict in a climate disruption context requires sustained investment, he stressed. Yet, African peace missions in the Sahel and Somalia face great funding uncertainties. Underlining that African Union peace support operations immediately require Security Council mandates, under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, and predictable funding guaranteed by assessed contributions, he urged Member States to consider this matter again as soon as possible.