Climate change, conflict and fragility: Understanding the linkages, shaping effective responses

This report explores the complexities of responding to climate change in fragile and conflict affected contexts.

As climate change unfolds, one of its effects is a heightened risk of violent conflict. This risk is at its sharpest in poor, badly governed countries, many of which have a recent history of armed conflict. This both adds to the burdens faced by deprived and vulnerable communities and makes it harder to reduce their vulnerability by adapting to climate change.

Policy discussions about the consequences of climate change are beginning to acknowledge the conflict and security implications. These concerns, however, are not being properly taken on within the complex negotiations for a new international agreement on reducing global warming and responding to climate change. In the negotiating context, the discussion focuses on how much money should be available for it and how that money will be controlled. This discussion pays scant attention to the complexities of adaptation, the need to harmonise it with development, or the dangers of it going astray in fragile and conflict-affected states and thereby failing to reduce vulnerability to climate change.

In order to shape adaptation policies, it is necessary to go beyond the most immediate natural and social effects of climate change and look to the context in which its impact will be felt, because it is the interaction between the natural consequences and the social and political realities in which people live that will determine whether they can adapt successfully to climate change. Doing this means addressing the realities of the system of power in fragile and conflict-affected societies, a structure of power that often systematically excludes the voices of all but a privileged few.