Are peaceful countries immune to climate security risks? What the experts say

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The world is considerably less peaceful now than it was ten years ago. Climate change contributes to this negative trend by aggravating vulnerabilities and inequalities of people and communities and challenging the legitimacy of institutions. Fragile and conflict-affected states highly dependent on a climate-sensitive agricultural sector and marked by weak governance will bear the brunt of its impacts. Still, too little is known about which countries and contexts are likely to be affected the most by climate-driven instability and how best to tackle the root causes of vulnerabilities and predict future crises. Given that around 40% of people regularly exposed to climate hazards live in fragile and conflict-prone areas, we now must fill these gaps. This can only be possible by developing analytical and support tools that look at climate and conflict risks and how they interact in a systemic and integrated manner.  

In our second webinar on climate security, panellists discussed how to take advantage of climate science to more accurately measure peace and security, and make climate action more conflict sensitive. We brought together experts in humanitarian, development, climate, and security to foster a robust and cross-cutting discussion.  

  • Serge Stroobants, Director of Europe and the MENA region at the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) 
  • Emery Brusset, Lead Measurement Adviser, Emergencies and Transitions Service, WFP 
  • Sonja Vermeulen, Director of Programs at CGIAR 

In a hurry? Check out our quick summary video of the webinar discussion here:



Across the developing world, the effects of climate on social, economic, and political processes that drive instability, insecurity, and conflict are becoming increasingly evident. Despite this, those working in humanitarian, development, climate, and peace are still not yet prepared to deal with the reality of climate change on communities.  

Current peace and security indicators don’t integrate climate into their analysis. So, it’s critical to correct this imbalance. This is particularly important not only for those countries where climate and fragility already intersect but the effects are also felt within broadly stable countries, which are regularly exposed to climate hazards that may have a destabilising potential as the climate crisis intensifies.  

When it comes to climate action, existing strategies are unlikely to capture security risks that can arise from climate shocks. Oftentimes, such security risks are highly context-dependent. Indeed, while a growing number of adaptation interventions, investments, policies, and programmes target fragile and conflict-affected countries, they often fail to consider the environment in which they take place. Unfortunately, such approaches can end up reinforcing the structural and contextual drivers of conflict.  

Conversely, conflict-sensitive approach to adaptation may minimise potentially harmful impacts and even facilitate building and sustaining peace. Our discussion reflected on ways to enhance the capacity of international actors to tackle the root causes of vulnerability and prevent future conflicts.  

Three key priorities emerged from this experts’ conversation. Together, they lay out a framework that we have summarised here.  

For a more in depth analysis, check out our policy brief on the topic here.

1) Build analytical tools that are sensitive to climate-related security risks 

All the speakers acknowledged the need for empirical evidence of the exact mechanisms through which climate can indirectly inform conflict risk, and analytical tools to help build this evidence. Serge Stroobants, Director of Europe and the MENA region at the Institute for Economics and Peace, highlighted how tools like the recently developed Ecological Threat Register (ETR) are essential to spot which countries, regions and populations most at risk and find out which set of operational responses are best suited to tackle these challenges. It’s therefore crucial to act in the most vulnerable hotspots, to increase resilience, and contribute to adaptation efforts that aim to prevent the negative impact of the current climate crisis. 

Furthermore, Sonja Vermeulen, Director of Programs at CGIAR, emphasised that peace and security indicators don’t accurately quantify the impact of the climate crisis on socio-economic and political conditions, vulnerabilities and risks that can lead to conflict. Improved indicators that better capture the complex interlinkages between climate and conflict would help to inform policymakers and practitioner identify the communities most at risk and in need of urgent help. CGIAR’s land, water and food system science can contribute to inform the development of analytical tools – including measurements and indicators – that help to determine where climate-related security risks are likely to take place. 

2) Work on actions that anticipate crises   

Sonja Vermeulen, Director of Programs at CGIAR, stressed the need to improve early warning tools to predict climate security risks, and develop more timely and informed anticipatory responses. Digital technologies such as big-data and machine learning is key to thisand can help better predict where climate-related security risks will arise and deploy preventive action to reduce the likelihood and impact of future crisis. Climate security sensitive indicators and measurements would substantially help to anticipate crises, and help humanitarian assistance, development and peacebuilding efforts reach communities at major risks. It would also help to prevent potential conflicts that may arise due to the increasing impact of the climate crisis.  

The recently launched CGIAR Climate Security Observatory for Africa aims to fill this evidence gap by using inter-disciplinary methodologies to provide data-informed impact pathways of the climate security nexus, real-time monitoring and risk forecasting of the interaction of climate, conflict, and other insecurities as well as automated spatial and climate security hotspot analyses.  

3) Strengthen partnership between humanitarian, development, climate, and peace actors  

Emery Brusset, Lead Measurement Adviser, Emergencies and Transitions Service (WFP) emphasised that increased collaboration is needed to share information at different levels among different stakeholders, including those working in the field and those operating in headquarters. Developing strategic partnerships between international organisations, governments and private sector can also contribute to robust mitigation and adaptation efforts by elaborating common maps and understanding of the problems, challenges and needed interventions. Likewise, the formation of coalitions between policymakers and practitioners can help better integrate climate-related security risks into policies, programming, and investments and, therefore, reduce the operational risks related to climate impacts.  

CGIAR is further strengthening its partnerships by working with several organisations and institutes across the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus, such as IEP, the UN World Food Programme, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). 

CGIAR FOCUS group on Climate Security explores how climate change impacts food systems and how this is related to conflict. We believe strong land, food, and water systems help build sustainable and climate resilient peace. We deploy inter-disciplinary research methods and build strong partnerships with leading thought leaders who want to leverage climate adaptation activities for the purposes of peace and security.  


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