Climate security in the Mediterranean: From insights to action  

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On April 8, 2024, the CGIAR Focus Climate Security, supported by the CGIAR Initiatives on Climate Resilience; Fragility, Conflict, and Migration; and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, convened a high-level gathering to develop a common vision on the climate, migration, and security nexus in the Mediterranean region. 

This event marks a continuation of the first forum held in Rome in June 2023, which saw the convergence of leading scientists, policymakers, representatives from International Organizations, and experts deeply immersed in the climate-security dynamics within the Mediterranean region. 

 The Mediterranean is one of the most vulnerable areas to climate risks. Presently, it accommodates about half of the global populace grappling with water scarcity—a predicament poised to exacerbate in the face of climate disruptions. 

Scientists warn that without robust measures to manage and mitigate climate change, its adverse impact could overwhelm the adaptive capacity of Southeastern Mediterranean countries, weakening institutions and potentially exacerbating conflicts over natural resources. 

In this second round of discussions, the emphasis shifted from dialogue to action, particularly concerning strategies to bolster the resilience of local communities and promote peace and stability amidst the challenges posed by climate change.  

Juan Lucas Restrepo, Director General of the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT, kicked off the event with opening remarks while Ambassador Marco Giungi, Head of the Unit for Strategies and Multilateral Global Processes for Development – Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation;  delivered an insightful speech highlighting the need for scientific clarity to understand the climate security nexus which is crucial for informed policymaking. This then paved way for the first panel session, moderated by Cesare Scartozzi, Climate, Peace and Conflict Scientist.  

EU’s initiatives to tackle the climate and migration nexus in Africa 

In her intervention, Emanuela Claudia Del Re, European Union Special Representative for the Sahel, highlighted the EU’s efforts in addressing climate change and migration issues in the Sahel region. She highlighted initiatives such as the “Natural Africa” project, which is linked to the Great Green Wall project, that envisions a massive belt spanning 7,000 kilometers across Africa, aiming to halt desertification and create green spaces that could foster agriculture, job creation, and much more. There is also the Global Gateway fund, a €300 billion financial instrument, with half directly allocated to Africa. Del Re also discussed the Africa-Europe investment package, which focuses on developing investment strategies to address climate security issues.  

She mentioned however that the region faces complex challenges posed by climate change in various regions, citing the dire situation around Lake Chad. Climate-induced droughts, salt storms, and the presence of Boko Haram exacerbate the situation, leading to prioritization of security over development cooperation in investment decisions.  

Climate change and migration in Africa are intricately linked, and leveraging partnerships to address root causes in a sustainable way is imperative.  

Leverage the power of remittances  

Mr. Pedro De Vasconcelos, Senior Technical Specialist Financing Facility for Remittances, IFAD, pointed out the need to include remittances into our solutions framework to assist local communities tackling climate security challenges. Using IFAD as an example, he highlighted projects across 15 countries that incorporate remittances into their solutions framework. This is because remittances, agriculture, and climate are intricately linked, forming a crucial nexus.  

Remittances sent by migrant families to their home countries grow each year, significantly impacting families receiving them. Surveys show that a significant portion of remittances is invested in agriculture, highlighting its importance for both livelihoods and climate adaptation. 

The COVID-19 pandemic was also revelatory – when remittances were temporarily halted, entire communities felt the repercussions, highlighting their significance in sustaining livelihoods.  

Stakeholders need to recognize the nexus between remittances, agriculture, and climate, and we need broader documentation and awareness.   

The importance of data  

Mr. Laurence Hart, Director, IOM Rome highlighted a recent study called “Aftershock,” conducted in November 2023. The study assessed how climate change influences migration and vulnerability in Libya. It revealed that 25% of Libyan migrants had experienced at least one climatic stressor in the year preceding their migration. The study identified various climate-related triggers for migration, including heatwaves, storms, droughts, floods, and land degradation. This data challenges the oversimplified narrative often applied to Mediterranean migration, where individuals are categorized as either in need of international protection or as economic migrants.   

The top five migrant nationalities mentioning climate change in the study were from Niger, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, and Nigeria. Interestingly, Niger and Chad, despite having a low propensity to migrate to Europe, feature prominently in these findings, emphasizing the global nature of climate-induced migration. 

Evidence based insights will compel meaningful action 

With approximately 40,000 people being displaced daily, Mr. Andrew Harper, Special Advisor on Climate Action, UNHCR, emphasized the importance of evidence-backed strategies to compel meaningful action.  

Highlighting the staggering scale of displacement—114 million people globally—Mr. Harper underscored the pressing need to prioritize resilience and adaptation efforts among affected populations. He noted that extreme weather events, exacerbated by recent cuts in food aid, have led to conditions verging on famine in many regions. Conflict zones like Chad, hosting over 500,000 refugees, further underscore the intersection of climate impacts and displacement. 

To address this crisis, the UNHCR collaborates with organizations like CGIAR and the World Bank to inform decision-makers about the complex challenges and risks posed by climate change and migration. The focus is on supporting refugee-hosting nations and investing in resilience-building efforts in areas disproportionately affected by climate impacts.  

The second panel discussion was moderated by Ana Maria Loboguerrero, Research Director, Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT, and Lead, CGIAR Initiative on Climate Resilience (ClimBeR) and focused on programming and action strategies. 

Shared dialogue for shared action  

Mr. Luca Cinciripini, a researcher in the EU, Politics and Institution program, Institute of International Affairs, highlighted the Nexus project, aimed at fostering a multilateral debate involving diverse stakeholders to address the issues of climate change, migration, and security holistically.  

The project, currently in its second phase until 2026, seeks to engage financial institutions, think tanks, and local actors from vulnerable regions like Africa and Southeast Asia. While the Mediterranean region is a primary focus, attention is also given to areas like the Sahel and Southeast Asia. Food security emerges as a central concern, intertwined with water security and other challenges. He also stressed the need for efficient use of climate finance to support vulnerable communities. Insights from the project underscore the importance of viewing actors in the global South as partners in finding solutions and involving youth in promoting sustainable agricultural practices.  

Sandro De Luca, Director, International committee for the development of people (CISP), highlighted the challenge of separating migration from broader development processes, especially in today’s politically charged climate.  

Acknowledging migration as a historical adaptation mechanism, Mr. De Luca stressed the need to view it not as a problem to be solved but as a normal, albeit complex, aspect of human history.   

He also said there’s a need to consider how opportunities are perceived by young people, whose perceptions influence their decisions. Individuals should be empowered with diverse opportunities, including legal migration pathways instead of relying solely on development cooperation to deter migration flows. While recognizing that such measures may not completely halt migration, they can potentially encourage more informed decision-making and mitigate humanitarian crises along migration routes. 

Emphasizing the crucial role of civil society, Sandro also urged against solely relying on large-scale infrastructure projects. He stressed the importance of harnessing society’s energy and perspectives to facilitate development, citing examples of how access to opportunities within one’s own country or legal migration channels can influence migration decisions. 

Ms. Cristina Rapone shed light on the intricate relationship between climate change and food security in North Africa, sharing the alarming statistic that 35% of the population in the region faced moderate to severe food insecurity in 2021. Climate change, she stressed, compounds these challenges, intensifying the struggles faced by these communities.  

One key takeaway from her intervention was the uneven distribution of climate impacts among different demographic groups. Citing a significant FAO report titled “The Unjust Climate”, Ms. Rapone highlighted the disproportionate burden borne by poor households, particularly women-headed households, due to stress and flooding events. Gender disparities exacerbate income gaps, with stress and floods widening the divide by billions of dollars annually. 

Notably, despite their vulnerability, marginalized groups such as rural populations are often overlooked in national and local climate adaptation strategies. Ms. Rapone pointed out that adaptation plans across 24 countries largely neglect rural communities, with scant mention of farmers, women, youth, or the rural poor.   

In her closing remarks, Grazia Pacillo, Senior Research at CGIAR and Co-lead of the Focus Climate Security team, outlined the pressing need to empower communities in climate-vulnerable countries, enabling individuals to thrive without feeling compelled to migrate. Central to this endeavor is the inclusion of marginalized groups such as women and youth.   

She also emphasized the critical role of robust scientific data in informing decision-making processes, particularly in the context of climate security. She highlighted the dedication of organizations like CGIAR in producing high-quality evidence.  

 Ultimately, she stressed the importance of translating discourse into action, ensuring that initiatives are impactful and community-driven. 

 

The event also saw the launch of the white paper titled Towards a Common Vision for Climate Change, Security and Migration in the Mediterranean. The white paper identifies potential solutions and integrated approaches to increasing climate adaptation capacities, reducing involuntary and unsafe migration, and sustaining peace and stability in the Mediterranean.  

Read here.  


Ibukun Taiwo and Cesare Scartozzi (Alliance of Bioversity & CIAT)

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