How climate change exacerbates regional tensions

International Alert, together with our partner adelphi, recently held a high-profile consultation in the Jordanian capital Amman to raise awareness among policy- and decision-makers on how climate change acts as a risk multiplier for fragility and conflict in Jordan and the wider region.

The consultation, which was held on 17 August, brought together national experts, government representatives working on water and climate change, and representatives of regional organisations, donors and NGOs, to share their experience and expertise on climate, environment and humanitarian issues, in an attempt to understand how these pressures can exacerbate tensions and conflict in the region.

Participants identified some key opportunities and solutions for improving the situation in Jordan. Janani Vivekananda, Manager of the Environment, Climate Change and Security Programme at Alert, stressed that "it is not the climate or environmental stress, but rather how it is managed that poses the risk to instability or presents the opportunity to build peace and cooperation".

As one of the world’s most water stressed countries, improved water governance is essential for Jordan. In its latest water strategy, the Jordanian government recognises that Jordan loses, on average, 40% of water pumped into its networks. It is estimated that 80% of this lost water is in fact stolen. Better water management systems can help guard against these water losses and ensure cooperation over sharing of the resource.

Cooperation between neighbouring countries was also identified as a key way of ensuring a sustainable future. According to Dr Munqeth Mehyar, Director of EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East, environmental degradation, exacerbated by climate change patterns, "can easily cause international tension, since Jordan’s water resources are shared by two or more sovereign states in the region". Participants felt that the need for stronger cooperation on water and energy, is all the more important because Jordan faces a shortage not just of water but also energy. However, ongoing regional conflict, a lack of political will and fear of dependence were cited as major impediments to such cooperation.

During the discussion, participants agreed on the need for more cross-sectoral coordination in order to achieve a common objective for various policies related to the water-food-energy nexus. More importantly, a long-term approach has to be mainstreamed in all aspects of policy-making. In Jordan, water management seems to be moving in the right direction, with the Jordan Valley being a good example of where new initiatives can be piloted.

This consultation is part of an ongoing project commissioned by the G7 to support member states in understanding the joint challenges of climate change, fragility and security in order to build resilience. The event enabled Alert and its partners to identify important priorities for G7 policy-makers, including:

  • The need for stability in the region, particularly an end to the war in Gaza.
  • Addressing the refugee issue in Jordan.
  • Increasing support for both Jordanians and refugees.
  • The need for increased sustainability of results, such that policies are translated into practice.
  • Ensuring that policies and interventions are relevant to the context and the needs of communities. Donors should make sure the government is cooperating with civil society and that there are bottom-up consultative processes.
  • Fostering regional water cooperation to ensure Jordan’s stability and security given the transboundary nature of Jordan’s main water sources.
  • Jordan receives almost no external funds or support for agriculture. However, agriculture reform is an urgent priority for Jordan’s economic development and should be reflected as such in donor assistance to the country.

You can find out more about our work on environment, climate change and security here.

Photo: Meg Seigl/Flickr