With many communities around the world experiencing extreme weather conditions, changes to agricultural cycles, longer dry seasons and rising sea levels, climate change is no longer a future challenge, but a very present risk. It is not just the direct consequences of climate change and variability which we need to be worried about also the consequences of the consequences. These are being borne out through a number of complex and interacting factors such as weak governance, poverty, inequality, legacy of past conflicts, political instability and ethnic fault lines. These impacts take an array of forms, including political instability, food insecurity, economic weakness and internal migration.
Given the uncertainties surrounding the knock-on consequences of climate change, and the political contestation that accompanies this uncertainty, Alert’s approach is one that focuses on resilience: the capacity of a system to withstand shocks and to rebuild and respond to change – including unanticipated change.
We stress that policy responses need to look beyond specific environmental impacts, to address the broader context of failures of governance. Our research aims to identify the gaps and weak points in key institutions, mechanisms and processes responsible within fragile states and explore how to reform, reinforce or create them such that they can deal with changes in a peaceful manner, in spite of climate variability.
This is a question of identifying potential fracture points through localised research and analysis to understand the actual problems and actors involved in order to promote the likely solutions. Such an approach is one which at its core aims to builds resilience – to climate change, to poverty and to conflict.
As such, this programme aims to:
- enhance developing countries’ social resilience and adaptability in the face of a variety of risks and challenges including climate change; and
- ensure that climate change considerations are factored into development and peacebuilding policy and practice, and to ensure that climate-related policies and practice are peace positive.
This programme has a global purview. Localised research in focus countries feeds into a regional and global dialogue and advocacy process and vice versa. Currently research and advocacy initiatives are underway in the Niger Basin and South Asia, and active climate and security dialogue processes continue in London and Kathmandu.
Alert aims to support the establishment of peaceful communities resilient to climate and conflict risks through the following five approaches:
- Building a nuanced understanding of the interlinked climate risks and perceptions of risks to peace and security in specific, vulnerable geographic regions.
- Building knowledge about who can do what and how to promote peaceful responses to climate change.
- Fostering dialogue between stakeholders in different sectors (security, business, development and climate change etc.) and regions to promote better understanding and cooperation for building resilience.
- Providing policy guidance to national and international actors involved in climate change, development and peacebuilding policy and programming to support climate and conflict sensitivity.
- Providing training to actors involved in climate change, development and peacebuilding policy.
Regardless of the lack of data on predicting impact, impacts of climate change and variability are being felt. So decisions need to be made to assist those already vulnerable communities bearing the brunt of these impacts.
Ill-conceived interventions in vulnerable communities can do harm. For example, efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption through increased biofuel consumption has been linked to reduced food production, the hike in food prices in 2007 and 2008, and numerous violent clashes around the world.
Therefore with the uncertainties in current climate change predictions, poorly planned and un-joined up approaches could not only set back development progress, but also could in some cases increase political tensions and destabilise fragile peace processes. By inadvertently reducing the resilience of some communities in an attempt to address another critical challenge faced by others, climate adaptation or mitigation efforts could in and of themselves pose a threat to peace.
It is crucial then to ensure not only that the decisions being made and funds being spent will help build the resilience of the affected communities, but also that the funds do not create or exacerbate violent conflicts in fragile states.