Climate Change ‘a Multiplier Effect’, Aggravating Instability, Conflict, Terrorism, Secretary-General Warns Security Council

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council open debate on “Maintenance of international peace and security:  Security in the context of terrorism and climate change”, in New York today:

Let me begin by strongly condemning the cowardly attacks on Sunday against the G5 Sahel [Group of Five for the Sahel] forces in Niger and again yesterday against the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), in which seven Togolese peacekeepers lost their lives.  An Egyptian peacekeeper also died after being injured in an attack in Mali last month.  I extend my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of these and many other attacks that have taken the lives of so many innocent people.

In these difficult times, I would like to reaffirm my solidarity and the support of the United Nations for the Governments and peoples of the region in their fight against terrorism.  I thank the presidency of the Niger for organizing this timely debate on the links between climate change, conflict and terrorism.

Firstly, I affirm that the climate emergency is the vital issue of our time.  Although some progress was made at the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), the objectives are far from being reached.  But, we have no choice but to continue our efforts to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C alive.

We are in a race against the clock, and no one is safe from the destructive effects of climate disruption.

In Somalia, Madagascar, Sudan, the Middle East and North Africa, droughts and increasingly extreme meteorological phenomena are threatening food security and making access to scarce resources even more difficult.

The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that climate change could increase the risk of famine and malnutrition by up to 20 per cent by 2050.  And the World Bank predicts that, in the same time frame, climate change could lead to the displacement of more than 200 million people.  All of this undermines global peace, security and prosperity.

This Council has emphasized this on numerous occasions, including in resolutions on the mandates of five peacekeeping operations and five special political missions.

The regions that are most vulnerable to climate change also suffer from insecurity, poverty, weak governance and the scourge of terrorism.  Of the 15 countries most exposed to climate risks, eight host a United Nations peacekeeping or special political mission.  Climate impacts compound conflicts and exacerbate fragility.

When climate disruption contributes to pressure on institutions and hinders their capacity to provide public services, it fuels grievances and mistrust towards authorities.  When the loss of livelihoods leaves populations in despair, the promises of protection, income and justice — behind which terrorists sometimes hide their true designs — become more attractive.

In the Lake Chad Basin region, Boko Haram has been able to gain new recruits, particularly from local communities disillusioned by a lack of economic opportunities and access to essential resources.

In central Mali, terrorist groups have exploited the growing tensions between herders and farmers to recruit new members from pastoralist communities, who often feel excluded and stigmatized.  And environmental degradation enables non-State armed groups to extend their influence and manipulate resources to their advantage.

In Iraq and Syria, for example, Da’esh has exploited water shortages and taken control of water infrastructure to impose its will on communities.  In Somalia, charcoal production provides a source of income for Al-Shabaab.

Climate change is not the source of all ills, but it has a multiplier effect and is an aggravating factor for instability, conflict and terrorism.  We must address these challenges in an integrated manner and create a virtuous circle of peace, resilience and sustainable development.

This is why, in my report on Our Common Agenda, I propose a New Agenda for Peace that presents a multidimensional vision of global security.  In line with this integrated approach, I would like to underline five areas where we need to deepen our collective action.

First, we must focus on prevention and address the root causes of insecurity.  Conflicts and terrorism do not take place in a vacuum.  They are the result of deep fractures:  poverty, human rights violations, poor governance, the collapse of essential public services, a lack of opportunities for human development, and more broadly, a loss of hope for the future.

To build lasting peace, we must reduce inequalities.  We must protect the most vulnerable people and communities, including women, who are often disproportionately affected.

We must support investment in human development — from health to education to social protection — in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

We must promote inclusive governance, with the full participation of all communities and civil society — including environmental defenders — so that everyone can be part of their country’s future.  And we must leverage local expertise and amplify the voices of women and young people everywhere.  Studies show that when women participate in negotiations, peace is more sustainable.  And when they are involved in legislation, they adopt better policies for the environment and social cohesion.

Second, we urgently need to increase our investment in adaptation and resilience.  Annual adaptation costs in developing countries are estimated at $70 billion, and they are expected to reach up to $300 billion a year by 2030.

Developed countries must keep their promise to provide at least $100 billion per year to developing countries for climate action.  And it is essential that at least 50 per cent of climate finance for developing countries is dedicated to strengthening resilience and supporting adaptation.

The twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change sent a positive signal in that direction.  I now expect developed countries to fulfil their commitment to double adaptation finance by 2025.

One example is the ambitious Great Green Wall initiative, which is reviving degraded landscapes in the Sahel in order to improve food security, create jobs and promote peacebuilding.

But the financing mechanisms in place must meet the growing needs and be accessible to the most affected populations.  Grant financing is essential, as the most vulnerable countries are already crushed by debt.  At the same time, we must adapt our peacebuilding work to include climate action.  Since 2017, the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund has increased its investments in innovative initiatives that address climate risks.

In Yemen, where water scarcity exacerbated by climate change is contributing to instability, the Fund has supported the restoration and enhancement of local water governance structures in the Wadi Rima Valley, which has helped reduce intercommunal tensions.  Unfortunately, the Fund is still far from reaching the critical mass that would enable it to help governments and societies more systematically in addressing the risks of complex conflicts.

Third, we need better analysis and early warning systems.  Every conflict-prevention initiative must take into account climate risks.  Understanding and anticipating the cascading effects of climate change will strengthen our work on peace and security.  A third of the global population lacks early warning systems.

As discussed with our partners during the African Union-United Nations conference, the African Union and other regional organizations are leading the way in making early warning mechanisms operational.

We also need to build on existing expertise in disaster risk reduction and integrate climate risk into all economic and financial decisions.  At the United Nations, the Climate Security Mechanism is strengthening the capacity of field missions, country teams and regional and subregional organizations to analyse climate-related security risks and shape integrated and timely responses.

Which brings me to my fourth point:  the development of partnerships and initiatives linking local, regional and national approaches.  We must make the best use of on-the-ground expertise, while drawing on the political, technical and financial capacities of regional and international actors.

The “Regional strategy for the stabilization, recovery and resilience of the Boko Haram-affected areas of the Lake Chad basin region” is a good example.  Jointly developed by the African Union, Lake Chad Basin Commission, United Nations and other partners, the strategy integrates humanitarian action, security, development and climate resilience.

The United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) has launched, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), a new initiative on climate change, security and development in West Africa.

This initiative promotes an integrated and coordinated approach to climate security in the region and supports the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Governments and local authorities in their risk-reduction efforts.

And we must continue supporting the work of the Special Coordinator for Development in the Sahel through the United Nations Support Plan, which aims to strengthen cooperation and address the structural problems — such as poverty, underdevelopment and governance challenges — that make the region more vulnerable to conflict.

Lastly, fighting terrorism and conflict in a context of climate disruption requires sustained investment.  Yet, as we have seen in the Sahel and Somalia, African peace missions often have limited room to manoeuvre and are faced with great funding uncertainties.

Now more than ever, African Union peace support operations require Security Council mandates, under Chapter VII of the Charter, and predictable funding guaranteed by assessed contributions.  I urge you to consider this matter again as soon as possible.

The Security Council and all Member States must work — simultaneously — on peacebuilding and on the effects of climate change.  The United Nations is proud to stand with you to build a safer and more sustainable future for all.

For information media. Not an official record.