Establishing the link between climate change and human security
The UN Security Council has expressed concerns that the adverse effects of climate change could lead to certain threats to international peace and security. However, research suggests that scarcity can lead to cooperation rather than conflict. In order to improve our understanding of the factors involved, the European Union (EU)-funded CLICO project studied the world's most exposed and vulnerable areas to both floods and droughts - the Mediterranean, Middle East and Sahel (MMES) regions.
Coordinated by the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona, CLICO mobilised 14 research teams and brought together for the first time some of the world's leading researchers in water resource, vulnerability, and peace and security studies. The three year project which began on 1 January 2010 saw seven cases of areas where droughts or floods pose threats to human security being studied. The areas covered ranged from Niger, Sudan, the Jordan and Nile basins, to Cyprus, Italy and the Sinai desert.
With about €3 million funding under the Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7), CLICO is part of CLIWASEC, a cluster of collaborative research projects that also includes WASSERMEd and CLIMB. All three projects come under the FP7's Coordinated Topic between Environment including Climate Change (ENV) and Socio-Economic Sciences and Humanities (SSH).
“CLICO saw a large dataset of hydro-conflicts in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Sahel being compared with climatic, hydrological and socio-economic variables,” says CLICO project coordinator Giorgos Kallis of Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona. “The ultimate aim was to develop a suitable international institutional framework for dealing with the human security implications of hydro-climatic hazards,” adds Kallis.
Several CLICO case studies in Niger, Turkey and Ethiopia confirm that poverty can exacerbate vulnerability to climate stresses and human insecurity. In contrast, the link between climate change and water conflicts is, at most, indirect.
Results also illustrate that states can plan and facilitate adaptation by providing the regulatory frameworks that govern adaptation actions by individuals, groups and communities. However, too much dependence on states can reduce the capacity of communities to adapt autonomously.
Other case studies have highlighted the ambiguous effects of state-led adaptation responses. For instance, in Alexandria, Egypt, state-driven relocation from low-lying coastal lands may reduce direct risks from sea-level rise. However, it may also expose people to new risks associated with displacement and the need to secure sustainable livelihoods in new locations.
Overall, results indicate that climate change is likely to play, at most, a secondary role in creating or exacerbating water-related conflicts. Economic and political factors have been shown to be more important in this regard.
Recommendations coming from the CLICO project team include strengthening social security systems to improve human security. There is also a need for participatory decision-making where local knowledge can inform state-led adaptation efforts. Finally, CLICO research has demonstrated the need for an integrated policy approach towards adaptation.