Environmental change and security

Photo by RebeccaConway/IRIN, 2012On 15 May, International Alert partnered with the International Peace Institute (IPI) to present findings on environmental change and security at a roundtable event at IPI in New York.

The findings were based on four case studies conducted in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, as part of a DFID and USAID funded research project entitled ‘Strengthening responses to climate variability in South Asia’.

In recent years, the conceptual framework surrounding environmental change and security has been met with a mixed reception. High-profile actions like the failed 2011 attempt to pass a thematic UN Security Council resolution on climate and security highlight the difficulties in broad approaches to the subject.

This is a particularly pivotal moment, as there are a number of ongoing international negotiations around climate change and sustainable development to which this subject is highly relevant. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is at a crossroads in determining a post-Kyoto agreement framework and discussions continue on the contours of a post-2015 sustainable development framework.

It is with this in mind that Alert’s policy research has aimed to bring clarity to the local context of the interplay between the environment and security. The case studies presented in New York looked at the nature of environmental risks within the existing dimensions of peace and security on the ground in South Asia and the root causes. Drawing on the empirical evidence provided by the case studies, the discussion explored:

  • How interventions by the state or by international institutions can best address vulnerability at the local level;
  • Where considerations over environmental change could and should fit into peacebuilding and sustainable development plans;
  • The priority areas for further research in fragile and climate-affected contexts.

Janani Vivekananda, Manager of Alert’s environment, peace and security programme, kick-started the discussion by presenting the research findings. Samuel Doe, Senior Policy Adviser and Team Leader at the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery at the United Nations Development Programme (BCPR/UNDP) and Michael Kugelman, Senior Program Associate for South and Southeast Asia at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, then provided excellent input as discussants.

The event was chaired by Warren Hoge, Senior Adviser for External Relations at IPI. Participants of the roundtable included members of UN permanent observer offices, think tanks, UN officials and the media.

This event is intended to be part of a process to reinvigorate thinking and discussion on the joint challenges of climate change and human security, and ensure that the ensuing policy processes around climate change and development take adequate account of the complexity which the future holds.

Photo © RebeccaConway/IRIN, 2012