Some Member States Argue Nexus between Both Crises Unclear, 15-Nation Organ Not Appropriate Forum to Tackle Issue
Warning that people and countries most vulnerable to climate change also are most vulnerable to terrorist recruitment and violence, nearly 60 speakers in an open debate today told the Security Council that the negative synergy between the two crises threatens to undermine States and international security itself, as the 15-nation organ considered a draft resolution proposed by Niger and Ireland on the matter.
The Council had before it a draft resolution, co-sponsored by Niger (Council President for December) and Ireland, which, by its terms, would request the Secretary-General to integrate climate-related security risk as a central component into comprehensive conflict-prevention strategies of the United Nations, to contribute to the reduction of the risk of conflict relapse due to adverse effects of climate change.
“We are in a race against the clock,” António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, stressed, adding that “no one is safe from the destructive effects of climate disruption”. Highlighting the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, he pointed to the increasingly extreme meteorological phenomena that is threatening food security and access to resources in Africa and the Middle East.
Regions most vulnerable to climate change often also suffer from poverty, weak governance and terrorist activity, he said, pointing out that of the 15 countries most exposed to climate risks, eight host a United Nations peacekeeping or special political mission, including in Mali where terrorist groups have exploited growing tensions between herders and farmers to recruit, while in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, has exploited water shortages. Climate change has a multiplier effect on these situations, he said.
Citing Our Common Agenda, he noted that conflicts result from deep societal fractures, causing a loss of hope for the future. He called for a number of measures, in particular with a focus on inclusive governance. “Studies show that when women participate in negotiations, peace is more sustainable. And when they are involved in legislation, they adopt better policies for the environment and social cohesion,” he affirmed.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, emphasized that “the exacerbation of the climate situation with droughts is also exacerbating global tensions because of a scarcity of natural resources”, as illustrated by data on the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin. With a demographic explosion increasing the pressure on scarce resources, these phenomena are creating a fertile breeding ground for non-State actors, including terrorists, who are recruiting and training thousands of young people.
With more than 50 million people living in precarity in the Sahel alone, he also said that the various social, economic and ideological issues bring suffering to thousands of women and girls, who lack appropriate representation in the political sphere. He called on the international community to fight climate change and terrorism and address the interconnection between the two, noting the important role the African Union is playing as Africa invests in mitigating the impact of climate change.
Mamman Nuhu, Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and Head of the Multinational Joint Task Force, recalled that the basin used to export food products including millet and sorghum, practice livestock herding and fishing, but climate variability, population pressure and insecurity are now constant threats to food security. Young people representing 60 per cent of the population have turned to criminal activities, including a smuggling industry focused on drugs, arms and human trafficking. Additionally, clashes between farmers and herders over destruction of crops and cattle rustling have allowed the Boko Haram ideology to grow.
He described several initiatives, including the Emergency Development Programme for vulnerable groups which comprises 118 microprojects expected to generate at least 257,000 jobs. However, the operations of the Multinational Joint Task Force, which was established to create a secure environment in areas affected by terrorist activities and facilitate stabilization programmes and humanitarian aid aimed at neutralizing terrorists, are insufficient in the medium- and long-term to eliminate threats of violent extremism.
In the ensuing debate, speakers offered condolences to the families of the victims of terrorist attacks in Niger and Mali this week, reaffirming solidarity and support for the Governments and peoples of the region in their fight against terrorism. Nearly 60 Member States representatives also emphasized the immediacy and urgency of establishing the nexus between climate change and terrorist proliferation.
Mohamed Bazoum, President of Niger and Security Council President for December, speaking in his national capacity, said he chose the debate’s topic to have the Council establish the obvious nexus between peace and security on the one hand and the fight against terrorism and the effects of climate change on the other. The Sahel and Lake Chad regions illustrate the interplay between climate change effects and peace and security, with climate change pushing populations into a fierce competition for scarce resources. It is high time for the Council to adopt the resolution proposed by Niger and Ireland that would finally strengthen its understanding of the impact of climate change on peace and security, he said.
The representative of Kenya said the problem is not convincing the Security Council of the link between climate change effects and resource conflicts that may offer terrorists new opportunities to exploit, but convincing the Council that African crises require and deserve that the 15-nation organ fully live up to its mandate. Stressing that climate change adaptation is the most peace-positive undertaking in regions like the Sahel, he also urged the private sector to design investment-ready projects in line with environmental, social and governance criteria.
Ireland’s representative called climate change the “defining challenge of our time”. Poor Government response to extreme weather events weakens the social contract between citizen and State, providing breeding grounds for terrorist groups in conflict situations. “We have a responsibility, at this Council, to break this vicious and self-reinforcing cycle,” she stressed, urging support for the resolution. Integrating such concerns into conflict resolution, prevention and mediation efforts is imperative, she said, adding: “Failure to do so is unconscionable”.
The representative of Norway said the underlying factor is fragility. Successfully fighting climate change and countering terrorism both depend on promoting good governance and strengthening partnerships with national and regional actors, especially the African Union. Emphasizing that “where vulnerabilities overlap, solutions tend to overlap as well”, she said that peace efforts should be climate-sensitive, climate action should be conflict-sensitive and peacebuilding should be “climate-proof”. Thus, a coordinated approach by the United Nations and the Council is needed.
However, a number of speakers challenged the call to link the issues of climate change and terrorism, as well as the notion that the Security Council was the appropriate forum for such discussions.
India’s representative said climate change was already being dealt with under the mandate of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). A debate in the Security Council has the potential to disrupt discussions on such an important topic. “Let us not deviate from an established and inclusive processes of decision-making with all the developing countries participating,” he said, adding that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report clearly states that the effect of climate variability on violence is contested.
The representative of the Russian Federation said ISIL’s incursion into Africa is related to porous borders and socioeconomic hardship, exacerbated by the pandemic and weak authorities on the ground. Forcing climate change onto peacekeeping operations and detaching it from a scientific approach will have disastrous results. The link between terrorism and climate change is unclear, making it unsuitable for a Council debate, and should be left to other United Nations bodies, including the Economic and Social Council.
The delegate of Brazil called for a cautious stance in approaching climate change from a strict security angle, as it could distance the international community from an adequate response. It is important to avoid duplication of work and to respect specific mandates within the United Nations system. The UNFCCC is properly equipped to discuss and address any specific climate-change concerns in an inclusive, balanced manner. The Security Council’s time and energy would be better spent fostering financial flows to support existing commitments and enhanced climate action.
Fiji’s delegate, however, said future debates on peace and security in the chamber will be informed by how rapidly the world can secure 1.5°C — by far the most important peace and security investment that the international community can make today. New weapons of war are emerging, including selective access to fresh water, resources and areas not threatened by rising sea levels. Many of the Council’s peace interventions are engagements where climate crisis already shapes, exacerbates and defines the contours of conflict. He joined other Member States in calling on the Council to live up to its responsibility at this historic moment, with the speediest possible adoption of the resolution being a good start.
Also speaking were was the President of Estonia, as well as representatives of the United States, France, Mexico, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, China, Viet Nam, United Kingdom, Tunisia, Iran, Japan, Gabon, Egypt, Malta, Philippines, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany (for the Group of Friends on Climate and Security), Italy, Portugal, United Arab Emirates, El Salvador, Maldives, Netherlands, Greece, Poland, Albania, Chile, Lebanon, Peru, Qatar, Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Guatemala, Sweden (also for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway), Australia, Ecuador, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Morocco, Belarus and Uzbekistan.
A representative European Union, in its capacity as observer, also spoke.
The representative of the Russian Federation took the floor for a second time.
The meeting began at 10:08 a.m., suspended at 1:11 p.m., resumed at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 5:56 p.m.