Climate change and insecurity

Last month saw delegates from around the world assemble in Doha for the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in an effort to inch towards a global deal on climate change. Yet discussions on how much financing should be provided and by whom didn’t reach satisfying conclusions, despite a week’s worth of negotiations.

In advance of this global climate jamboree, International Alert and the South Asia Network on Climate Change and Security (SANSaC) convened a discussion in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to highlight some of the more nuanced issues relating to climate change and resilience. The event addressed the double threat of climate change and insecurity in South Asia, and the underlying obstacles to building local-level resilience.

The event looked at the findings of a joint research project between Alert and SANSaC on strengthening responses to climate variability in South Asia, and included case studies on India, Nepal and Pakistan.

Participants included members of civil society, regional academics and representatives from the donor community, as well as the British High Commission and the Ministry of Environment in Sri Lanka.

The presentations and debate highlighted the link between climate and environmental impacts and natural resource governance, and the potential for conflict. It also considered the incentives, structural obstacles and field-level challenges to understanding and operationalising coordinated approaches to building resilience.

The research and the subsequent discussion highlighted that there are no ‘quick-fixes’ or ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions for the complex and diverse climate change risks that many vulnerable communities are facing. However, there are promising measures to improve the climate resilience of local communities.

Adaptation would benefit from an integration of conflict-sensitivity and a shift in focus from technical solutions to broader resilience strategies which address livelihoods and governance challenges. Donors can contribute a more comprehensive understanding of climate change impacts by supporting cross-sectoral resilience building which takes the role of the private sector in conflict situations into account.

There was a clear consensus during the event on the following conclusions:

  • Supporting adaptation cannot be targeted on specific actions responding to specific threats.
  • Supporting adaptation means supporting resilience, which is part of how communities develop.
  • Supporting the capacity to adapt properly will go far beyond technical adaptation activities and will become part of the fabric of development aid.

The event also highlighted the need for further analysis on the following issues:

  • How can we better understand and plan around multiple motivations for investment and change? There is a strong need to incentivise integrated projects, with funds, certification schemes or prizes to drive integration. For example, projects proposed jointly by several departments could be given first access to funds.
  • What counts as resilience to climate change? Various participants questioned what is meant by “resilience”. The different interpretations of this question have very practical implications for how money is invested and where.
  • There is a lot of knowledge and good practice already being documented but we need to establish some strong examples of what can be replicated and how.

The discussion will feed into our analysis of the research findings and the final report will be published in summer 2013.

Find out more about Alert’s work on climate change and conflict here.