To have impact, climate security actions require contextualized, harmonized and collaborative intelligence

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In the last two decades, conflicts and wars have spread and intensified. All around the world, people are directly exposed to this violence or face negative effects from it, including involuntary migration and dramatic increases in the cost of basic necessities. The negative consequences are much stronger in fragile regions where coping options are limited and people must move or compete for scarce natural resources and employment. This tension leads to further conflicts, creating a vicious cycle.

Climate change is a major, though less understood, driver of conflict and war as droughts, floods, extreme heat and other effects cause millions of people to lose their livelihoods. Climate security is a critical and emerging field of the study seeking to better understand, prevent or minimize the scope and intensity of these impacts.

Yet achieving climate security is an elusive goal: understanding the complex and dynamic relationship between climate and conflict requires an interdisciplinary assessment at a granular level on multiple livelihood domains. Available solutions are limited, as the evidence of performance is very scarce, creating a strong need for technical, organizational and institutional innovations. Moreover, once achieved, sustaining climate security requires persistence and vigilance on the part of communities, policy makers, public and private sector, and local and international research system stakeholders, and a harmonizing of understanding and actions. Technical, organizational and institutional innovations and policy mechanisms at local, regional, national, and international levels need to be developed collaboratively.

CGIAR’s new Research Initiative on Building Systemic Resilience Against Climate Variability and Extremes, or ClimBeR, is working to address these needs. At the recent  National Inception Workshop in Kenya, and the deep-dive sessions in climate security that followed, twenty-eight organizations and research centers gathered to address issues at the intersection of climate and insecurity. Their discussions, held 22 and 23 June in Nairobi, significantly contributed to developing a shared understanding of climate security in Kenya across multiple scales and sectors. Building on the shared understanding, The CGIAR ClimBeR teams in Kenya will support national and local humanitarian, climate, development and peace actors to integrate innovations ClimBeR teams co-develop into policies and mechanisms and simultaneously contribute to CGIAR’s climate security strategy.

The demand

Kenya has built a very fast-maturing climate change policy and intervention landscape, anchored by policies, plans, and mechanisms including the 2016 Climate Change Act, the National Climate Change Action Plan, the National Adaptation Plan, and platforms like the Kenya Climate-Smart Agriculture Multi-Stakeholder Platform (CSA-MSP). These components provide a critical foundation for those working to ensure climate security. Ana Maria Loboguerrero, lead of the ClimBeR Initiative, noted during the meeting that this well-advanced progress in climate adaptation and mitigation makes it clear that “ClimBeR can be and should be a Kenyan initiative.” Indeed, the climate security efforts need to “complement existing policy and mechanisms, rather than reinventing the wheel,” George Wamukoya, team leader of the African Group of Negotiators Experts Support (AGNES), emphasized.

During the two days, participants delved into requirements for achieving climate security impact at scale in Kenya. According to the participants, innovative solutions co-designed and co-developed through the ClimBeR Initiative should:

  • Enable context-specific collaborations that respond to conditions in Kenya’s diverse regions and areas;
  • Capture a broad spectrum of climate change dimensions going beyond dominant drought issues;
  • Incentivize and encourage implementation follow-ups once actions are decided on, through clear and efficient monitoring, learning and evaluation systems;
  • Utilize or integrate into existing solutions and frameworks; and
  • Provide specific and actionable recommendations, along with opportunities to mobilize finance.
Remarks at the ClimBeR Kenya Climate Security Workshop. Photo by: J. Hodur/CGIAR

Kenya has established the basic capabilities for addressing climate security, yet, responding to the demand for them will require more than simple exchanges or guidelines alone. Participants expressed a need for parts of business intelligence systems used by corporations such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Alibaba, with sophisticated operations at scale in multiple diverse contexts. The major demand for climate security innovations in Kenya was intelligence for achieving contextualized, harmonized and collaborative action at scale.

The solutions

The ClimBeR Initiative will co-design and co-develop innovative solutions with regional, national, and local actors to enhance the climate security action intelligence capabilities of climate governance actors in Kenya and other countries facing similar climate challenges, such as Guatemala, the Philippines, Senegal, and Zambia. Several will contribute to the key components of context-specific, harmonized, collaborative intelligence solutions:

  1. A common language: The workshop highlighted the significant variation in understanding climate security and its underlying concepts. Collaborative intelligence cannot be achieved without this critical and grounding component. With the engagement of and input from national and local stakeholders, ClimBeR will work with partners to produce a multi-lingual, country-customized lexicon. The lexicon will describe key climate security concepts in specific contexts by using local examples. It will build on the systematic reviews of climate security as well as previous experiences from the CGIAR Focus: Climate Security Team. A special policy lexicon section will present key legislative terms, their current use in various active policies, and the mandated organizations working on them across different contexts.
  2. Practices for navigating complexity: Since the way climate-related security risks manifest may differ significantly across contexts, a one-size-fits-all approach to implementation will not be sufficient. Therefore, ClimBeR and partners will co-produce Climate-Security Proofing Guidelines with the best practices for understanding the scope and magnitudes of context-specific climate security issues, as well as the Climate Security Governance and Policy Toolkit, to translate this context-sensitive understanding into policies and effective policy implementation.
  3. Data and evidence management infrastructure: Achieving and sustaining climate security involves the simultaneous actions of many interdependent actors operating in complex environments and will require understanding the facts in real-time to develop optimum actions. ClimBeR and partners will enhance existing information and communications technology infrastructures to process the enormous amounts of data needed to auto-generate relevant, actionable, high-accuracy, and context-specific evidence. It will leverage and further develop a Climate Security Observatory to respond to the specific needs of local governmental, research, and development actors, and build Climate Security Action Modules that include innovative components such as standardized actor and action typologies and maps, complementary indicators, and descriptors such as Climate Security Index, social network analytics, dynamic-interactive dashboards, and auto-generated reports. The team will test these innovative solutions in a stepwise way and complement them with coalition-of-the-willing and writing task forces to ensure their effective use.
Stakeholders discuss at the ClimBeR Kenya Climate Security Workshop. Photo by: J. Hodur/CGIAR.

The way forward

Conflict and war already cause great hardship to millions of people, and in the face of climate change, the threat of these impacts will only grow. Achieving and sustaining climate security will be critical for countries going forward, but not possible without partnerships and innovations. ClimBeR and its local and national partners in Kenya and other countries are committed to responding to the urgent demand for climate security actions. Together, they will co-develop intelligence capabilities for contextualized, harmonized and collaborative climate security actions at scale and contribute to achieving national climate governance objectives, creating sustainability and stability in the process.


For more information, contact Grazia Pacillo ( about ClimBeR Climate Security activities, Evan Girvetz ( for ClimBeR activities in Kenya, and Ana Maria Loboguerrero ( for general ClimBeR information and activities.


Authored by: Murat Sartas, Anna Belli, Giulia Caroli, Tanaya Dutta Gupta, Leonardo Medina, Ana Maria Loboguerrero, Jon Hellin, Evan Girvetz, Grazia Pacillo, and Janet Hodur

Header photo: Participants of the ClimBeR Kenya Climate Security Workshop. Photo by: J. Hodur/CGIAR.

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