Opening the evening’s discussion, Vanessa Havard-Williams, Partner and Environmental, Social and Governance Coordinator at Linklaters said: “Within our practice we are starting to see the ripples of climate and conflict… talking about how to engage with these issues and how to build alliances of the willing is really terribly important.”
An audience of more than 90 people heard engaging stories from West Africa, Kashmir, Fiji and elsewhere about the challenges and innovative solutions to reduce the risk of climate change-related conflict in communities and beyond. Attendees included fellow peacebuilders, lawyers, climate change experts, journalists and those whose interests span multiple topics.
The BBC’s climate editor Justin Rowlatt led a wide-ranging conversation exploring the effects climate change has as a multiplier of existing conflicts. It is often the poorest and most vulnerable communities, those that are already suffering the worst effects of violent conflict, who feel the worst effects of the climate crisis.
Climate change can be seen as a structural factor, shaping the livelihoods of people. It creates unpredictability and alters the way in which people use the land to earn a living and support their families.
In West Africa, existing conflict between nomadic herders and farmers is being exacerbated by the effects of climate change with changing weather patterns affecting pastoral grazing routes. This brings herders into closer contact with farmers and their land. Livestock eat crops and consume water reserved for irrigation, increasing tensions.
These situations require innovative solutions. In one region, supported by Conciliation Resources crop growers set up a market attended by both farmers and herders. This market provided a safe space for both groups to interact over trade.
Janet Adama-Mohammed, Conciliation Resources' West Africa Programme Director explained: “We and our partners were there to explain that this is what a peaceful environment can look like. From this we built a series of commitments that each needed to abide by in order to enjoy the peace market, and now they are here to stay.”
Climate change has caused some Pacific governments to reassess their maritime borders, and coastal communities are facing relocation issues including losing a sense of identity and culture. Conflict can arise through resettled villages bordering other communities or people being moved to land surrounded by land owned by others.
Litia Nailatikau, Conciliation Resources' Fiji Programme Officer said: “In the Pacific, the biggest climate change effect is rising sea levels. In Fiji particularly, we have intimate relationships with the land. In having to relocate, you lose a sense of identity.”
Through workshops and community dialogue, Conciliation Resources and partners have provided guidance to communities to learn about and access relevant government assistance, meaning officials and communities work together.
There are reasons to be hopeful. The panel shared their optimism in seeing spaces where people come together to discuss challenges and opportunities: scientists and environmentalists from India and Pakistan discussing collective solutions, or communities being heard by local government representatives via dialogue sessions. Climate change can create opportunities for disparate groups to work together towards a common goal and so heal or restore divisions once thought intractable.
The climate crisis is not the only crisis peacebuilders around the world are faced with on a daily basis. In recognition of the constant changing dynamics communities impacted by conflict are facing, the evening’s event also saw the launch of our Peacebuilding Response Fund. This designated fund will be available for our staff and partners to call on urgently as violent conflict erupts or new risks emerge. Learn more about the fund here.
Watch a full recording of the event:
Access to land and natural resources has long contributed to conflict, but our natural environment is changing at a rate never seen before in human history. We work in partnership with local people and communities to develop conflict-sensitive responses to environmental change.