UN Secretary-General António Guterres has placed conflict prevention at the top of the ‘Sustaining Peace’ agenda. The agenda recognizes that conflict is fueled by a variety of overlapping factors, including climate change, and reminds the international community of this systemic complexity. To further support initiatives that tackle climate change, the UN established the Climate Security Mechanism (CSM) in 2018. It brings together different entities and promotes joint action on addressing climate fragility risks. But why is the CSM important?

In the following interview, UNSSC’s Patrizia Albrecht invited our CSM colleagues Matti Lethonen (UN Environment Programme), Catherine Wong (UN Development Programme), Thomas Ritzer (Department for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs), Marie Herman (UN Environment Programme), Helena De Jong (Department for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs) and Valentin Hervouet (UN Development Programme) to share their perspective on climate security and to explain how the CSM helps to strengthen climate sensitive approaches to sustaining peace across the UN system.

Patrizia Albrecht: Why was the Climate Security Mechanism created within the UN system and what is its role?

CSM: The Climate Security Mechanism (CSM) was created in 2018 as a joint initiative by the Department for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to strengthen the capacity of the UN system to analyze and address the adverse impacts of climate change on peace and security. Building on its own interagency setup, the CSM promotes joint action and acts as a reference point on climate security for stakeholders across and beyond the UN. The CSM’s priority areas of work include supporting risk analysis and response in the field, enhancing knowledge management and co-creation, strengthening partnerships and advocacy and building capacity. 

Patrizia Albrecht: Most of the complex conflicts in our times are among the most exposed to climate risks. How has climate change shaped the agenda of the Security Council and member states? 

CSM: Since the first discussion on the effects of climate change at the Security Council in 2007, and especially in the last few years, the topic has received a growing amount of attention in the Council and from the broader UN membership. The unanimous adoption of UNSCR 2349 (2017) was an important milestone in this regard as it recognized for the first time the link between instability and climate change. In 2018, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) became the first peacekeeping mission to have environmental factors explicitly mentioned in its mandate. Land degradation and other environmental factors have also been part of the Security Council resolutions on Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and other contexts.

As of June 2021, the Security Council has recognized the adverse effects of climate change, among other factors, on the stability of 11 regional and country-specific situations:

 

Special Political Missions:

  • - UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA)
  • - UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS)
  • - UN Assistance Mission on Somalia (UNSOM)
  • - UN Assistance Mission on Iraq (UNAMI)
  • - United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).

 

Peacekeeping Operations:

  • - United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA)
  • - United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA)
  • - United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO)
  • - United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS)
  • - United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

The resolution on the threat of terrorism in the Lake Chad Basin.

 

Map of UN Security Council references to climate security as of June 2021. Copyright: Climate Security Mechanism

The creation in 2018 of the Group of Friends on Climate and Security — which has over 55 members — and discussions about climate change and peace and security issues in other UN bodies such as the Peacebuilding Commission and the UN Economic and Security Council (ECOSOC) complement efforts in the Security Council to address climate-related security risks. 

Patrizia Albrecht: We already know that climate change does not automatically lead to conflict. What are the determining factors for addressing climate-related security risks and what role can the UN play?

CSM: The impact of climate change on peace and security is determined by the interplay between climate shocks and stressors and socio-economic, political and demographic conditions in a given context. Climate-related security risks are most pronounced where fragility and conflicts have weakened coping mechanisms, where people depend on natural capital like forests and fish stocks for their livelihoods, and where women — who bear the greatest burden of the climate emergency — do not enjoy equal rights. The UN system is well positioned to advance integrated approaches and work with partners to leverage synergies between efforts in peacebuilding, climate action and resilience, build on existing capacities, and strengthen communities’ ability to cope with and recover from the dual danger of climate and security risks. 

Patrizia Albrecht: What are the challenges of mainstreaming climate security in the work of UN Peacekeeping and Special Political Missions and UN country teams?

CSM: Climate security is an important aspect of the work of UN peacekeeping operations, special political missions, and country teams. Depending on their strategic priorities and the context of their operating environment, missions have expanded their efforts to integrate climate considerations into their analysis, political strategies and operational activities. Mainstreaming climate security into the work of field missions and UN country teams requires a systemic approach, sufficient capacity and partnerships with key stakeholders on the ground, including national and local counterparts. Given the complexity and cross-cutting nature of the topic, climate security exceeds the capacity of any single actor to develop and implement effective solutions. In this regard, the role of climate security focal points is important to help convene different strands of expertise and shape the conversation towards coordinated action. In support of such efforts, the CSM, in collaboration with a number of partners, has developed the Climate Security Toolbox to provide a broad framework for a holistic and systematic approach to climate security.

Patrizia Albrecht: What is the role of training and learning opportunities like UNSSC’s Climate Sensitive Programming for Sustaining Peace course?

CSM: Since climate security is a relatively new policy area, knowledge and experience on this topic remain limited among practitioners while the demand for capacity building is growing rapidly. Systematic training efforts are critical to equip practitioners with the necessary skills to understand the challenge from multiple angles, identify possible entry points for action, and work with partners to implement cross-cutting solutions. Initiatives such as the Climate Sensitive Programming for Sustaining Peace course at UNSSC offer valuable opportunities for practitioners from different sectors to learn together and make the connections needed for integrated approaches.

Many thanks to our colleagues at the CSM for sharing their insights. We are looking forward to future collaborations as integrated approaches depend on good partnerships and joint efforts. For more information, please contact climate-security-mechanism@un.org.

Would you like to learn more about climate change and sustaining peace?

Over the last year UNSSC has partnered with the Berlin-based think tank adelphi to design a course on Climate Sensitive Programming for Sustaining Peace. The course provides an overview of the most recent developments in the field of climate and security. Participants gain first-hand understanding of tools and methodologies to perform risk assessments, learn to identify entry points for intervention, and implement key principles for integrated programming. Together with inputs from UNSSC and adelphi, experts from within the UN system share their experiences during the course.

With this course, UNSSC aims to enhance the skills of UN practitioners to adopt a long-term approach to sustaining peace, and ensures climate security concerns are taken into account and are mainstreamed across analysis and programming for peacebuilding. Furthermore, UNSSC aims to support a growing network of climate security experts by creating spaces to share experiences and to foster ties between entities and field offices.

Gain new insights in the next edition which starts on 20 September 2021.



The opinions expressed in our blog posts are solely those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of UNSSC, the United Nations or its members.