In short, climate change is a global emergency that will increasingly affect many aspects of our lives. The climate crisis will put pressure on peace and prosperity, and complicate efforts to build peace in areas already affected by, and vulnerable to conflict. However, the common threat of extreme weather events and environmental change, can also be used as a bridge to bring divided communities together, working collaboratively towards a common goal.
With the natural environment changing at a rate never before seen in human history, it is crucial we better understand the impact of a changing climate on conflict and peacebuilding. And because no two conflicts are the same, we need to tailor our learning and how we address each situation.
The impacts of the climate crisis manifest in multiple ways, so solutions too are diverse. Understanding the links between the climate crisis and conflict in each place is critical. We work with people and communities to develop responses to environmental change that are grounded in their understanding and experiences:
Community responses in the Pacific
The Pacific region is already experiencing the effects of climate change. This adds pressure to already complex community conflicts, increases the potential for tensions as a result of dislocation, and poses a challenge to effective democratic governance. We’re working to understand the risks and to support community-led responses that can deal with the interconnected threats posed by climate change and conflict. The approach is adaptive, recognising that indigenous knowledge, practice and governance form a complex social environment within each community. We partner with organisations such as Transcend Oceania and the Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding, both based in Fiji, which are particularly focused on supporting those communities that need to relocate, including where people are becoming dislocated from their ancestral homes. Together we are looking at ways to work with communities to deal with these impacts, while working with governments and others to ensure responses to climate threats don’t cause further tensions. This includes creating spaces where communities can meet with authorities and raise their concerns.
Environmental degradation made worse by climate change has increased competition between farmers and pastoralist herders in West Africa. Combined with population growth, the expansion of cultivated land and regional instability, the tensions have exploded into widespread violence. In northeast Nigeria we have trained over 300 people from farming and pastoralist herder communities in conflict analysis and peacebuilding techniques, helping them to gain practical skills to identify and analyse key causes of conflict in their communities and develop strategies for mediation between the different groups. We also create a range of spaces for members of the conflict-affected communities, security personnel, and political officials to interact with one another, share their concerns and suggest solutions to the challenges they face.
Also in Africa, we are conducting research to better understand the changes to cross-border pastoral movements in Africa – in particular, as a result of environmental change – and the implications these have for peace and security. This work, which includes field research with satellite data and analysis, focuses on northeastern Nigeria and the region straddling the border between Uganda and Kenya. As part of this research, we are mapping herder movements to look at how we can prevent and address potential areas of conflict. The research is part of the UK-aid funded Cross-Border Conflict, Evidence, Policy and Trends (XCEPT) research programme.
Over the past 40 years, South Asia has experienced more than 1,300 natural disasters – these have been particularly severe in the region of Kashmir. However there is currently very little work being done across the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir to prepare for, and respond to these disasters. Despite not being able to meet in the region, a team of four filmmakers from both sides of the LoC produced a film, Disaster: the common enemy, to raise awareness of the importance of working across the divide to improve disaster management. As well as making disaster management more effective, and therefore potentially saving thousands of lives, a shared response could help build confidence between different groups and support long-term peacebuilding efforts in Kashmir.
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.