Salma Kadry, a scientist working on how climate threats can generate peace and security risks

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Salma Kadry is a Climate, Peace, and Security Specialist working at the Alliance of Bioversity International & CIAT for the CGIAR’s FOCUS Climate Security initiative. Following her historic address at the United Nations Security Council on June 13, 2023, we asked Kadry to elaborate on the themes she discussed, especially in relation to how our research can support solutions within the climate, peace and security nexus.

By: Georgina Smith

What are the impacts of climate change on peace and security across Africa and the Arab region in your view, and how are they linked?

I come from Cairo, a very populous urban city in Egypt, and weather fluctuations are apparent every day. Just a couple of weeks ago, there were major sandstorms in different parts of Egypt including Cairo. The realities of climate change are becoming a lived experience for all of us. Yet what has become increasingly obvious, is a lack of preparedness and crisis response, which compromises the resilience of people to face these challenges. This is a bigger problem when we look at conflict-afflicted and fragile countries, many of which are among the most vulnerable to climate change, with less capacity to deal with and adapt.

Maybe the biggest threat posed by climate change in this region is the loss of livelihoods. In East Africa for instance, the majority of the population is dependent on farming or fisheries which are sectors that are highly vulnerable to climate impacts. A 280 million pastoralist population depends directly on natural resources. Moving to the Arab region, this is the most water-scarce area in the world and highly dependent on food imports and vulnerable to price fluctuation. Without food sovereignty or control over food production, the region is vulnerable to climate impacts and destabilizations to food systems in other parts of the world.

For example, the war in Ukraine has destabilized wheat exports to Egypt, which sources most of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, with knock-on impacts for food security. It is also important to put this in the larger context: loss of livelihood, destabilizing food and natural resources contribute to migration and scarcity competition. Many countries in Africa and the Arab region are dealing with multiple other development challenges: poverty, unemployment, socioeconomic inequality, governance issues, debt; the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ripple effects of the war. All of these challenges compromise the resilience capacity of governments and undermine the provision of basic goods and services, which might become a trigger for tensions.

How are CGIAR and the Alliance uniquely placed to respond to the challenges we face within this context, especially related to food production? 

CGIAR and the Alliance aim to generate the evidence and the data about such risks and threats to push, shape and inform policies and actions to address them. We want to explore interactions between climate change, food, land and water systems, and how these overlap with peace and security risks. An important question is how climate threats converge into peace and security risks, to identify concrete action points and practical steps for policy makers so that they can respond effectively.

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