During a discussion on strengthening the response to the impacts of climate change on peace and security in Africa, the Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, said that “our response today does not match the magnitude of the challenge to we’re up against.” .
threat to peace
The climate emergency is “a danger to peace,” he added, noting that while there is no direct link between climate change and conflict, “climate change exacerbates existing risks and creates new ones.”
As desertification and land degradation drive competition for resources, they also erode the livelihoods and food security of millions of people.
Ms. Pobee described a devastating drought in the Greater Horn of Africa that forced families to move far from their homes, conflicts intensified over resources in the Sahel, and situations everywhere were exploited by violent extremists.
Action on ‘multiple fronts’
“To support the African continent… we must act on multiple fronts,” he said, calling for “ambitious climate action” and accelerated implementation of the Paris Agreement.
During next month’s “African-owned and African-focused” UN climate conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, he said he expected “meaningful commitments.”
“We cannot hope to achieve lasting peace if we do not meet our climate goals,” said Ms. Pobee.
He said there were three priorities moving forward, starting with increasing capacity for risk analysis and integrating a climate lens into conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding efforts.
Noting that existing peacebuilding efforts are often entirely based in a single country, he recalled that as “climate change knows no borders,” analysis and engagement must be more regionally focused with cross-border resource sharing.
Second, people must be placed at the center of efforts to provide peace and security with the experience of those living with the consequences of climate change harnessed to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies.
She recalled that women are “crucial agents of change” and young people, key stakeholders, “drivers of innovative actions for climate and peacebuilding”.
Third, climate action and peacebuilding must be mutually reinforcing, according to Ms. Pobee, arguing that “coherent policies are good for the climate and for peace”.
“Delivering on a commitment to international collaboration is an important task,” the UN official said. “African leadership is essential.”
in the margins
Speaking about the risks of climate change for African states, Tanguy Gahouma, former chair of the African Group of Climate Change Negotiators, also pointed to the prevalence of UN peacekeepers now operating in areas of high climate risk.
Furthermore, he argued that while the African economy can benefit from both the continent’s “abundant” natural resources and its youthful demographics, states remain marginal in global trade and finance.
Patrick Youssef, Regional Director for Africa of the International Committee of the Red Cross, recalled that as important as frontline responders are in addressing climate threats, humanitarian workers cannot also be expected to be peacemakers.
While Mr. Youssef noted that environmental damage remains a “silent casualty” of war, he suggested bringing a conflict lens to interactions in climate-affected environments.
Chairing the meeting, Gabonese Foreign Minister Michaël Moussa Adamo highlighted the obstacles to securing funding “for the people”.
He argued that climate impacts and the conflicts that often result from them place a significant burden on already stressed national budgets.
The Foreign Minister warned that future wars will not be fought over oil and gold, but over access to water and food, recalling that climate threats in one area threaten others, including countries that have abundant rain forest.