Cli­mate change open­ing door to mil­i­tants

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

CLI­MATE change has been blamed for many things, and it’s chang­ing the world around us ev­ery day. Now a new, per­haps sur­pris­ing, con­se­quence of the planet’s chang­ing cli­mate is emerg­ing: it’s open­ing the door to ji­hadist re­cruit­ment, par­tic­u­larly in frag­ile states.

Colin Walch, a peace re­searcher from Upp­sala Univer­sity, re­cently ar­gued that “fer­tile ground” for ji­hadist re­cruit­ment was cre­ated when some com­mu­ni­ties in Mali were forced to deal with lo­cal chal­lenges (in­clud­ing chang­ing weather pat­terns) with­out govern­ment sup­port.

Walch said lo­cal sys­tems for ad­dress­ing griev­ances over land, wa­ter and other re­sources had dis­ap­peared. This, he ar­gued, had opened the door for Is­lamist armed groups to ex­ploit lo­cal griev­ances for their own cause. In re­cent years, cli­mate change had am­pli­fied th­ese griev­ances.

Sim­i­lar stud­ies about Lake Chad find com­pa­ra­ble links.

Th­ese find­ings point to the com­plex se­cu­rity risks that re­sult from cli­mate change. They also con­firm that cli­mate change doesn’t act as a cause of vi­o­lence, but as a mean­ing­ful threat mul­ti­plier. Gen­er­ally con­flicts are not caused by cli­mate change. But cli­mate change ex­ac­er­bates the hu­man cost of con­flicts.

But we also need to move be­yond a sin­gu­lar fo­cus on risk. Re­searchers and prac­ti­tion­ers have to put op­por­tu­nity and peace back at the cen­tre of re­search and prac­tice. We have to stop just fo­cus­ing on threats. We must strengthen our ef­forts to iden­tify the po­ten­tial of ini­tia­tives on cli­mate change to over­come po­lit­i­cal fragility and im­prove peo­ple’s lives.

This re­quires both a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of what works on the ground and clear global lead­er­ship.

So what builds peace? This was a core ques­tion at the re­cent Stock­holm Fo­rum on Peace and De­vel­op­ment dur­ing dis­cus­sions on the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals and how they re­late to peace and con­flict. The an­swer from pan­el­lists was unan­i­mous: in­clude lo­cal com­mun- ities in de­vel­op­ment pro­cesses.

There is sub­stan­tial ev­i­dence in sup­port of hav­ing sig­nif­i­cant lo­cal in­volve­ment in cli­mate, de­vel­op­ment and peace-build­ing projects.

The corol­lary is that the break­down of lo­cal in­sti­tu­tions con­trib­utes to a lack of de­vel­op­ment – and worse.

As Walch per­sua­sively shows for Mali, the break­ing down of lo­cal in­sti­tu­tional struc­tures has pro­vided op­por­tu­ni­ties for ji­hadist re­cruit­ment. Walch finds that both ac­tions of the state, and more re­cently the in­flow of Is­lamist in­sur­gents, have led to the break­down. With the break­down of th­ese tra­di­tional con­flict res­o­lu­tion sys­tems came an in­crease in com­mu­nal vi­o­lence. This is of­ten con­nected to an in­creas­ing vari­abil­ity of nat­u­ral re­sources be­cause of cli­mate change.

In Mali, and many other cases, there is a need to ad­dress the ef­fects of cli­mate change and in­creas­ing po­lit­i­cal fragility.

And both seem pos­si­ble, as shown in my re­search in Nepal as well as in In­dia, Tan­za­nia and Mex­ico by Dr Prakash Kash­wan, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Con­necti­cut (US).

Our re­search shows that good cli­mate change-mit­i­ga­tion poli­cies can also help build such in­sti­tu­tions, or at least help in the emer­gence of new lo­cal gover­nance struc­tures.

In Nepal I tested if the pro­vi­sion of en­vi­ron­men­tal ser­vices helps in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the peace process af­ter civil war. This re­search looked specif­i­cally at small hy­dropower projects de­signed to bring elec­tric­ity to ru­ral vil­lages and mit­i­gate cli­mate change.

The find­ings showed sub­stan­tial suc­cesses in, for ex­am­ple, the em­pow­er­ment of women, bet­ter ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and in­creased eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. But it also showed that com­mu­nity co­he­sion in­creased while lo­cal gover­nance struc­tures were strength­ened.

The re­sults in­di­cate that cli­mate poli­cies can play an im­por­tant role in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the growth of lo­cal in­sti­tu­tions and ad­dress­ing peo­ple’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity and fragility.

Kash­wan also shows in his re­cent book Democ­racy in the Woods that pro­grammes aimed at re­duc­ing emis­sions from de­for­esta­tion and for­est degra­da­tion in In­dia, Tan­za­nia and Mex­ico de­pend on lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties’ in­clu­sion to be suc­cess­ful.

He ar­gues that when lo­cal peo­ple do not ben­e­fit, for­est con­ser­va­tion ef­forts tend to be un­sus­tain­able.

Kash­wan’s work points to the im­por­tance of com­pet­i­tive pol­i­tics in driv­ing poli­cies that con­serve forests with­out vi­o­lat­ing the rights of peo­ple who de­pend on them for a liveli­hood.

Kash­wan’s re­search, and my own, shows that re­duc­ing emis­sions through small hy­dropower de­vel­op­ment or re­for­esta­tion can do more than just mit­i­gate the ef­fects of cli­mate change. It can have wider ef­fects, such as re­duc­ing the op­por­tu­nity for ter­ror­ist groups to re­cruit marginalised peo­ple. As Malin Mob­jörk and Dan Smith from the Stock­holm In­ter­na­tional Peace Re­search In­sti­tute ar­gue, this re­quires clear lead­er­ship and ex­plicit in­sti­tu­tional change strate­gies at the high­est lev­els.

At all lev­els, it’s im­per­a­tive that we em­pha­sise the pos­i­tive po­ten­tial of sus­tain­able poli­cies and move be­yond risk as­sess­ments.

The re­cently pub­lished En­vi­ron­ment Strat­egy of the UN Depart­ment of Field Sup­port points in the right di­rec­tion. It en­cour­ages UN peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions to seek a pos­i­tive long-term legacy through the de­vel­op­ment of spe­cific en­vi­ron­ment-re­lated projects that may ben­e­fit so­ci­eties and ecosys­tems over the long term. – The Con­ver­sa­tion

Global warm­ing ex­ac­er­bates the cost of hu­man con­flicts

Krampe is a re­searcher at the Stock­holm In­ter­na­tional Peace Re­search In­sti­tute and an af­fil­i­ated re­searcher at the Re­search School for In­ter­na­tional Wa­ter Co-op­er­a­tion, Upp­sala Univer­sity

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