A New Climate for Peace

Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks

This independent report, commissioned by the G7 members, identifies seven compound climate-fragility risks that pose serious threats to the stability of states and societies in the decades ahead. Based on a thorough assessment of existing policies on climate change adaptation, development cooperation and humanitarian aid, and peacebuilding, the report recommends that the G7 take concrete action, both as individual members and jointly, to tackle climate-fragility risks and increase resilience to them.


Resilience Compass

When climate change exacerbates conflicts and crises, resilience must be the compass for foreign policy. The Resilience Compass features news, reflections and opinions on climate change and fragility, with contributions from the Wilson Center’s New Security Beat, International Alert and guest authors.


Factbook, Readings, Events

This collection of resources complements and extends the analysis of the report. It contains an interactive factbook allowing users to explore case studies from around the world and provides background readings and contextualized report and event summaries.

Thematic Reading

Briefing Note No. 15 > September 2015

Promoting Climate-Resilient Peacebuilding in Fragile States


This 29-page report published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development provides guidance on integrating climate resilience into peacebuilding interventions. The report provides a brief overview of the challenges of fragile states and guidance on operating in them, as well as a brief summary of the linkages between climate impacts and the drivers of instability. It then argues for addressing climate and peacebuilding jointly, and offers some entry points for achieving this integration. It closes with an overview of existing toolkits, guidance notes and frameworks for peacebuilding from the World Bank, USAID, UN and others, and examines how climate resilience could be integrated into them.

In detail

The report opens with an introduction that illustrates the often self-reinforcing difficulties of fragile states and the risks that climate change poses to them. It notes that over a third of official development assistance is now spent in fragile and conflict-affected countries, reflecting a recognition that violence and instability can persist and spread unless they are addressed in these contexts. The authors outline the considerable difficulties of operating effectively in fragile states; these include, amongst other challenges, the limited ability of fragile states to absorb development assistance.

The authors briefly outline the links between climate change and conflict. These include increased resource competition, population displacement, and particularly the additional stress on social, economic and natural systems that can overwhelm state capacities. This last risk carries the greatest risk for weak or fragile states. In addition, the authors note the negative feedback cycles that particularly affect fragile states, whereby the conditions of fragility increase the countries‘ vulnerability to climate impacts, which in turn can negatively affect the security environment and adaptive capacity.

Achieving integration

The authors make the case for integrating climate considerations into peacebuilding, aiming for peacebuilding programs that are resilient to current and future climate extremes. However, the report acknowledges the difficulties of coordination between these fields, given their different institutions, tools and approaches. Nevertheless, the report’s key contribution is to outline principles, entry points and challenges for practitioners, as well as opportunities for integrating this approach into the existing body of guidance for peacebuilding interventions.

The principles for achieving integration are:

  1. act based on thorough analysis of the local context;
  2. balance near- and longer-term priorities;
  3. focus on managing natural resources that affect livelihoods;
  4. reach across disciplines and sectors to collaborate;
  5. incorporate climate into future-oriented peacebuilding planning; and
  6. aim for resilience to shocks and stressors, whether climate-driven or not, as an overarching objective.

A table illustrates how climate considerations could be integrated into the UN Secretary-General‘s five peacebuilding dimensions, particularly around basic services, government functions and economic revitalization.


Generating accurate climate data in fragile contexts, and developing and retaining the expertise to translate it into decision-shaping information is identified as a significant challenge. The uncertainty that climate change presents, and the orientation toward demonstrable results and meeting the immediate needs of an affected population can trump longer-term imperatives, according to the authors. Practicalities such as how development, relief and peacebuilding are funded can work against integrated approaches, and actors are often overstretched to address cross-cutting issues.

The report draws on desk-based research, practitioner surveys and interviews, as well as discussions at a practitioner workshop held in Nairobi in January 2015, which was co-organized by the project consortium and also served as a consultation workshop for A New Climate For Peace. This is particularly beneficial in grounding the challenges section in real-world experience, and identifying how analysis on this topic could be most useful, i.e. by integrating it into existing peacebuilding resources.


The report concludes with a summary of the main points of the report – fragile contexts are difficult but are where the need is greatest; climate and fragility interact and so must be addressed jointly; and integrating this into existing peacebuilding guidelines is most effective for practitioners. The conclusion reiterates the authors‘ argument that in order for peacebuilding to be effective and sustainable, integration is a difficult but necessary objective.

Two annexes cover international guidance on working in fragile states and an overview of existing peacebuilding resources, with suggestions for ways of integrating climate resilience.


>> Crawford, Alec, Angie Dazé, Anne Hammill, Jo-Ellen Parry and Alicia Natalia Zamudio (2015): Promoting Climate-Resilient Peacebuilding in Fragile States. Winnipeg / Geneva: IISD. Retrieved at:

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Briefing Note No. 14 > August 2015

Myanmar Climate-Fragility Risk Brief

Since opening up to the international community after the election of a civilian government in 2010, Myanmar has undergone rapid political, economic, and social change. The potential for economic growth has attracted a huge flow of Foreign Direct Investment,[1] which in turn created new environmental and socio-political challenges. Competition for access to natural resources, inequitable wealth distribution, and increased pressure on resources and the environment are all likely to intensify due to a combination of factors including population growth, rapid industrialisation, and increasing demand for natural resources in food production, energy production and trade (ADB 2012a). Despite a recent boom in economic activity, Myanmar still ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world. It continues to suffer from entrenched internal ethnic-based armed conflicts which have been ongoing for the past 70 years and have caused widespread displacement and massive loss of lives and livelihoods. Given Myanmar’s abundant renewable and non-renewable natural resources, effective natural resource management could help create the right conditions for a sustainable and peaceful transition to democratic governance.

Climate projections suggest that Myanmar will experience an increase in average temperatures, erratic rainfall variability and more frequent, intense, and widespread extreme weather events (Myanmar NAPA 2012). It is particularly vulnerable to the detrimental impacts of sea level rise, saltwater intrusion and shorter monsoon seasons, coupled with more intense rainfall and flooding events and severe cyclones that will particularly affect the coast and destroy mangroves, which are a natural shoreline protection. These hydro-meteorological impacts are accompanied by a possible increase in the occurrence of droughts, loss of biodiversity and ecosystems (e.g. wetlands), and land degradation (ADB 2012b).

Compound risks: Links between climate change, fragility and security

1. Climate change and land conflicts

Access to land is vital for the more than 70% of Myanmar’s citizens who live in rural areas and depend on agriculture-related activities for their livelihoods. With up to 50% of the rural population considered landless (USAID 2013), access to land is particularly problematic and a major obstacle to poverty reduction in the country. The former military government facilitated recurrent land confiscation and land expropriation in favour of large-scale agribusiness enterprises, leaving thousands of people without land and contributing to population displacement and discontent (Soe Nandar Linn 2015). Decades of civil war, massive displacement and weak tenure security have contributed to more systematic land confiscation. In conflict-affected border states, both government forces and non-state armed groups have used land resources as a strategy to finance military operations by leasing land to investors, which has led to land grabbing on both sides (Henley 2014).

Since the beginning of the democratic transition, large-scale land allocation has increased significantly and land grabbing events have intensified and led to reported protests (OECD 2014). A study found that the conclusion of new ceasefire agreements in conflict-affected border states have further facilitated land grabbing by making those areas more accessible (TNI 2013). More recently, large-scale land acquisitions for biofuel production or hydropower electricity generation facilitated by international climate mitigation strategies have raised particular concern (TNI 2014). They mainly occur in the resource-rich upland areas like Kachin State that are already suffering from entrenched ethnic tensions and violence (Woods 2015). While investment in such projects is gathering momentum, there is a need for more research on the interplay between climate mitigation policies and their impacts on land acquisition. This would help mitigation projects to maximise social benefits for local communities and reduce conflict risks.

The compound pressures of climate change, conflict, displacement, population growth in upland areas, rapid economic growth, and unsustainable land and forestry management policies and practices will put land and forestry resources and the people who depend on them at further risk. If investments in large-scale development projects are implemented ignoring local land rights and customary land tenure, they are likely to fuel local populations’ grievances, particularly in ethnic minority areas, protracting conflict and instability in the country. Land grabbing is of particular concern for Myanmar’s peaceful transition and will remain one of the most contentious and volatile issues in the peace process (Mercy Corps 2014).

2. Climate change, disasters and fragility

According to the Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index, Myanmar was the country second-most affected by extreme weather events between 1994 and 2013 (Kreft et al. 2014) and the capital Rangoon was recently ranked among the five cities most vulnerable to climate change. The country is frequently struck by a wide range of hazards, particularly floods, cyclones, and earthquakes. As Myanmar is geographically diverse, many of the communities in border areas governed by ethnic minority armed groups face very different hazards to those in the Irrawaddy delta or the dry zone. The population is particularly vulnerable because years of civil conflict have caused massive displacement and loss of livelihoods, infrastructure and shelter. For example, intercommunity violence in Rakhine state has left 140,000 people homeless (Myanmar DRR WG 2013). The situation of IDPs, alongside the 800,000 individuals in Rakhine State who lack citizenship, has deteriorated to a worrying degree. It is worsened by the politically-driven restrictions of humanitarian access in the region (UNHCR 2015). Disasters and conflict have created a vicious cycle of vulnerability where people lack the means to recover from more frequent, unpredictable and intense disasters, keeping them in protracted poverty. The consequences of extreme weather events on people and infrastructures are putting further strain on the government’s capacities to respond to humanitarian crises (see box).

This is especially worrying, since ineffective disaster responses and the failure to manage extreme-weather-induced disasters can challenge the legitimacy and authority of governance providers and can erode the social contract between the government and affected communities (Mitra and Vivekananda 2015) thus further challenging the newly-formed government led by President Thein Sein and a peaceful political transition.

Climate change, Cyclone Nargis and conflict in Myanmar

Climate change was identified as a major risk after the country was hit by Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which caused an estimated loss of 140,000 lives, and devastated the livelihoods and shelter of 2.4 million people. The cyclone cost the government approximately $4bn in damage to infrastructure and physical access to markets and left the country in need of both immediate and long-term humanitarian assistance. Prior damages to the environment caused by widespread deforestation, degradation of mangrove and over exploitation of natural resources such as fisheries have contributed to make the cyclone’s impacts worse in Myanmar (UNEP 2009).

Myanmar’s response to the cyclone was highly criticised for its inefficiency. The government was more concerned to deal with conflict in non-affected regions such as Kern state. In addition, it restricted foreign aid and limited humanitarian access to the affected zone, fearing that foreign aid would sow the seeds of political unrest (Selth 2008). Instead, it prioritised security issues and deployed its already stretched resources on military operations against armed groups, rather than on relief and recovery efforts (South et al. 2012, cited in Harris et al. 2013).

It is worth recalling that Nargis struck at a time when Myanmar was fully closed off to the outside world. It had a repressive military government (although there are important distinctions between the army and the government), and there was almost no formal civil society. Pressure from the international community on Myanmar’s government because of its poor disaster response, and the growth of local civil society organisations that responded to the Cyclone, were arguably contributing factors in the eventual opening of Myanmar (Larkin 2011).


3. Water, energy and conflict

Myanmar is rich in natural resources, including oil and gas, minerals, precious stones and gems, timber and forest products, and water. Since the opening and political reform process, the hydroelectric power development sector has sparked foreign investors’ interest. This sector is currently the second-largest FDI recipient after the oil and gas sector (Allan and Einzenberger 2013). Large-scale hydropower projects have received bad press and public acceptance of them remains low, as the social costs of such projects are high. Many of these projects offer little or no benefits to local communities and result in substantial and often irreversible environmental and social damage. This includes massive displacement, the flooding of huge areas and forced resettlement of local communities (KHRG 2013). It is planned that most of the energy produced will be exported to China and Thailand, while only 26 percent of the more than 60 million people in Myanmar have access to domestically produced electricity. This is very likely to create grievances against the central government, which is perceived as systematically exploiting the natural resources of these areas without reinvesting the revenues to benefit the local population. Civil society opposition to big hydropower projects led to a nationwide campaign against the Myitsone hydropower dam in Kachin State (Allan and Einzenberger 2013) blaming its social and environmental impacts (BBC 2011) and the unfair benefits distribution among local communities (SIDA 2013). Most of the large hydro projects are in areas affected by conflict such as Kachin, Shan, and Mon state. The fact that many natural resources are found in conflict regions further complicates management of these resources and can contribute to instability (Soe Nandar Linn 2015). Indeed, management of natural resources interplays with deeply rooted political and economic grievances in Myanmar, which explains the protracted situation of the conflict.

The consequences of the huge flow of foreign investment to rural areas may exacerbate resentment in communities that do not directly benefit from economic growth, but suffer from the negative impact of clear cut forests, streams polluted with mining run-off and fertile farm land shifted to industrial use (Mercy Corps 2014). This is seen as a major cause of conflict in the country and may negatively affect the peace process.


Sustainable and inclusive natural resource governance, and better forest and land management practices, such as secure and socially acceptable land tenure and distribution, are crucial to ensuring a sustainable and peaceful social, political and economic transition. Competition over access to natural resources, entrenched ethnic conflict, shifts in agricultural output, pressure on natural resources, internal displacement, and accelerated social and economic change are likely to push Myanmar toward more fragility. These risks need to be taken into account as part of the political negotiation and peace process in Myanmar. How these changes are managed in a context of complex political, economic and social changes will play a major role regarding Myanmar’s future stability and resilience. Supporting key government and civil society stakeholders in establishing platforms that enable more open and inclusive dialogue and debate around natural resource management will be key to achieving lasting peace in Myanmar. In order to create the conditions for lasting, sustainable peace, reforms need to include the local business community, involve women, and be sensitive to the complex, evolving, but deep-seated, conflict dynamics (International Alert, March 2015).


Written By: Clémence Finaz, Research Associate with International Alert’s Environment, Climate Change and Security Programme




[1] “Pledged foreign direct investment grew from US$1.4 billion in FY 2012 to US$4.1 billion in FY 2013” (CIA World Factbook 2015).

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Briefing Note No. 13 > July 2015

Afghanistan Climate-Fragility Risk Brief

Afghanistan is a country where conflict and natural hazard-induced disasters interplay (Harris et al. 2013) and is one of the countries in the world most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (UNEP News Center 2012). Droughts and flash floods are occurring at a faster pace, climate-related agricultural losses are increasing, and arable land and water resources are becoming scarcer. With a legacy of instability and conflict, the Afghan government’s limited capacity[1] to cope with those impacts makes it harder for the population and for the country to bounce back from decades of war and escape the vicious cycle of poverty and fragility. Thirty-six percent of Afghans still live below the poverty line, and the country has one of the lowest average life expectancies (60 years) in Asia (UNDP 2014). Even though attention has focused on the insurgency[2] against the government, violent conflict over access to natural resources has played a key role in the protracted conflict situation. Disputes over access to land are the most common cause of violent conflict in the country. Climate change, particularly through its associated impacts on land and water resources, is exacerbating some of the root causes of the existing conflict.

Climate projections in Afghanistan

The country is heavily reliant on unpredictable snow and rainfall for water supply. Long-term trend analysis has shown a decrease in average annual precipitation between 1960 and 2008, and an increase in average annual temperature by 0.6° C during the same period. This trend is projected to intensify over the coming decades (World Bank 2015). The worsening climatic conditions in Afghanistan will continue to impact its socio-economic development (SEI 2009).

Compound risks: Links between climate change, fragility and security

1. Climate change and land degradation exacerbating land-related conflict

In Afghanistan, land is the main source of livelihoods with up to 80 percent of the population involved in farming or herding, or both, and a large proportion engaged in subsistence agriculture. The combined pressures of decades of conflict and warfare, repetitive droughts, and the absence of controlled and sustainable land-use management have significantly harmed the environment and left Afghanistan highly vulnerable to land degradation and desertification (NAPA 2009). The widespread loss of forest and vegetation cover has exposed soils to serious erosion, increasing the risks of disasters such as floods and landslides. A UNEP post-conflict environmental assessment dating back to 2003 identified the complete collapse of local and national forms of governance as the most serious issue responsible for long-term environmental degradation in the country (UNEP 2003). Growing demand for land driven by rapid population growth and the huge influx of returning refugees exacerbates this trend. Combined with fast-paced environmental degradation[3] compounded by climate change effects, the likely result is increased competition over land both in rural areas (for agriculture) and in urban centres (Brown and Blankenship 2013). This in turn risks exacerbating tensions, triggering grievances and feeding instability.

A peacebuilding study in Afghanistan reported that disputes over access to land are the most common cause of violent conflict in the country (Waldman 2008). Poor governance of natural resources and uncertainties around land ownership and tenure are of major importance in conflict over land access. For example, entrenched inter-ethnic conflict between the settled Hazara and the nomadic Kuchi in the central highlands of Afghanistan has been fuelled by an overlap of legal rights held by the Kuchi and historical rights held by the Hazara (UNEP 2009). Both groups are dependent on high-altitude grazing land to support livestock, and they compete for access to this land, increasingly resorting to violence to restrict the access of the other resource-user group. Discriminatory policies have for decades aroused resentment on each side, with different administrations backing one side or the other. There is increasing concern that the dispute has the potential to develop into a wider conflict (UNIFTPA 2012). The degradation of grazing land productivity and vegetation cover[4] will increase hardship for pastoralists, forcing them to seek grazing at higher elevations (UNEP 2003). With no clear and equitable land tenure system or dispute resolution mechanisms in place, this may sustain the conflict by reinforcing the perception of inequalities in the ownership of land, along with ethnic tensions over access to land.

In addition, the possible ramifications of refugee return have raised concerns. Since 2002, more than 5.8 million Afghan refugees have returned home (UNHCR 2015). The uncertainty around land rights and the lack of consensus as to how to manage the refugee returnee situation has driven local tensions and aroused local resentment toward incoming refugees blamed for “grabbing land” (Brown and Blankenship 2013).

2. Water-related disasters, agriculture sector at risk and livelihood insecurity trigger instability 

Agriculture is a major contributor to the economy (28% of GDP) and provider of jobs and livelihoods in the country with 85% of the population depending directly or indirectly on the agriculture and livestock sector (World Bank 2015). In Afghanistan, the majority of food and market crops are rain-fed and therefore highly climate-sensitive. But irrigated agriculture is also at risk, as already degraded aquifer resources are expected to be further depleted by the impacts of climate change on water availability. Because of a deficient irrigation system, irrigated agriculture is considered highly vulnerable to the impacts of climatic hazards, as are livestock herders and dryland farmers. Around 8% of Afghanistan’s irrigated land[5] lies either fallow or uncultivated because it does not receive sufficient water to ensure cropping for all seasons (SEI 2009).

Afghanistan experiences frequent water-related disasters, including periodic droughts and intense flooding, putting the agriculture sector and related jobs at further risk. Recurring ‘natural’ disasters, including drought, floods, landslides, earthquakes, and avalanches, affect approximately 250,000 Afghans each year (USAID 2014). In 2009 alone, floods killed nearly 1,200 people and affected almost 29,000 households, with significant economic damage (Brown and Blankenship 2013). In 2011, a prolonged drought affected the north, northeast and west of the country, affecting more than 3 million people. Through increased evapotranspiration, reduced river flows and water tables, and changes in rainfall patterns during peak cultivation seasons, droughts have a severe impact on agricultural productivity (SEI 2009; NAPA 2009), with cascading negative effects on the overall GDP and on household income and food security. During periods of drought, wheat yields have been observed to decline by 40-55 per cent on average, while up to 70 per cent of Afghan households are affected by livestock losses (CPHD 2011). Because of climate change, droughts are expected to become the norm by 2030.

The prospect of lower water availability makes water-intensive staple crops such as wheat less attractive to farmers, who will likely turn to less thirsty crops, particularly opium poppy, which provides roughly three times the income per hectare (Brown and Blankenship 2013). Afghanistan is still the world’s largest producer of opium (90% of global supply) and hashish, and the trade in opiates accounts for 16% of GDP. Many studies have highlighted the link between drug production and trade in Afghanistan and the protracted conflict and security situation. The opium trade provides huge revenues to traffickers and anti-government insurgents, and contributes to maintaining the status quo of poor governance (Brown and Blankenship 2013). By increasing the attractiveness of poppy production, worsening climatic conditions are exacerbating this source of instability and insecurity in Afghanistan.

3. Livelihood insecurity, conflict and displacement rural-urban migration, urbanisation, youth and instability in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is still a rural agrarian country, although its urban centres are expanding rapidly. Due to the combined effects of economic development, conflict and disasters, the urban population has been growing at a rate of 5.7% since 2001 (Hall 2014), and the population of Kabul has multiplied by more than 13 since 2001, from 300,000 to roughly four million in 2013 (Brown and Blankenship 2013). In addition, huge numbers of returning refugees are putting further strain on urban centres that are not equipped to deal with such an increase in residents. The lack of infrastructure for shelter, water, health and electricity provision makes overcrowded urban areas hotspots of vulnerability and poverty. Over the past three years, the economic situation of urban households has deteriorated, with approximately 78.2% of urban households living below the poverty line (Hall 2014). People living in unplanned and illegal settlements represent 70% of Afghanistan’s urban population (CPHD 2011). Coping with a growing youth and urban population represents a huge challenge for the Afghan government, adding to the deep economic and social uncertainties facing the country. Indeed, with one of the youngest populations in the world – children under 15 represent almost 50% of the total population (ILO 2012) – the incapacity of the government to ensure sustainable employment prospects, particularly to young men, can be a source of frustration and a specific conflict driver (Fetzek and Vivekananda 2015).

4. Climate change, poor water management and transboundary water issues fostering regional tensions

Afghanistan is not considered a “water stressed” country. But like land, water resources are pressured both on the supply and demand side. Climate change will accelerate glacier and snow melting patterns (the main source of most of Afghanistan’s surface water), with an impact on water flow and availability, particularly during the summer season. On the demand side, a growing population will increase demand for domestic and agricultural water use, further straining water availability. Due to years of conflict, under-investment in water infrastructure, and poor water management, the irrigation network and storage capacities are deficient and responsible for huge water losses, resulting in low agricultural productivity (Brown and Blankenship 2013). As agriculture consumes 95% of all of the water used in the country, the critical room for manoeuvre lies in improving water wastage management (SEI 2009).

River basin management is critical for reducing diplomatic and regional tensions around water allocation, in particular around the Helmand River at the Afghan-Iranian border. Water is a precious resource for the region’s development, and any changes in water use or availability in Afghanistan will affect downstream countries including Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Water shortages will increase pressure on each riparian country to secure its water resources to achieve economic development goals. By affecting water flow and water usage, climate change may exacerbate regional tensions around the allocation of water (SEI 2009). For example, dam construction projects in Afghanistan on rivers shared with Iran have led to strong protest from Iran, fearing a reduction of water flow downstream. “According to some observers, Iran is simultaneously attempting to destabilize the region by providing financial support for armed insurgent groups that are directly targeting reconstruction projects such as the Kajakai Dam” (Deghan et al. 2013, cited in Brown and Blankenship 2013), which contributes to protracted instability and insecurity in Afghanistan.


Afghanistan faces huge development and poverty reduction challenges as well as its ongoing conflict. Disasters and conflict reinforce each other in Afghanistan and have displaced thousands of people still in need of humanitarian aid (more than 654,000 people remain internally displaced by conflict, USAID 2014). The protracted humanitarian crisis has rendered the country extremely dependant on international aid; the total amount of aid for 2010/2011 amounted to approximately US$15.7 billion, which is close to overall GDP (ILO 2012). Better natural resources management and investment in resilient water infrastructure are key to overcoming major development challenges in Afghanistan. These can yield the triple benefits of improved economic opportunities, increased resilience to shock and stresses, while also acting as a peacebuilding tool.


Written by: Clémence Finaz, Research Associate with International Alert’s Environment, Climate Change and Security Programme



  • Barakat et al 2008: A strategic conflict assessment of Afghanistan, post war reconstruction and development unit, The University of York.
  • Brown, O., and E. Blankenship, 2013: Natural resource management and peacebuilding in Afghanistan. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Environment Programme.
  • CPHD, 2011: Afghanistan Human Development Report – 2011: the forgotten front: water security and the crisis in sanitation, Kabul: Centre for Policy and Human Development.
  • Deghan, A., L. J. Palmer-Moloney, and M. Mirzaee 2013: Water security and scarcity: potential destabilization in Western Afghanistan and Iranian Sistan and Baluchestan due to transboundary water conflicts, in: Weinthal, E., Troell, J. and Nakayama, M. (eds.): Water and post-conflict peacebuilding, London: Earthscan.
  • Fetzek, S. and J. Vivekananda 2015: Climate change, violence and young people. Report for Unicef UK. London: The International Institute for Strategic Studies.
  • Hall, S., 2014: A study of poverty, food security and resilience in Afghan cities. For DRC and PIN.
  • Harris, Katie; David Keen and Tom Mitchell 2013: When disasters and conflict collide. London: Overseas Development Institute.
  • ILO 2012: Afghanistan: Time to move to sustainable jobs. Study on the state of employment in Afghanistan, May 2012, Kabul: International Labour Organisation.
  • Savage, M., B. Dougherty, M. Hamza, R. Butterfield and S. Bharwani 2009: Socio-economic impacts of climate change in Afghanistan. A report to the Department for International Development. Project report 2009. Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).
  • UNDP. 2014: Human development report 2014: Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience. New York: United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 29.06.2015 from
  • UNEP 2003: Post-conflict environmental Assessment. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme.
  • UNEP 2009:  ‘Recommended Strategy for Conflict Resolution of Competing High Pasture Claims of Settled and Nomadic Communities in Afghanistan’, Kabul:  United Nations Environment Programme .
  • UNEP News Centre October 2012: UN environmental agency to help Afghanistan combat effects of climate change retrieved 29.06.2015 from:
  • UNHCR 2015: Country operations profile – Afghanistan. Retrieved 26.06.2015 from
  • USAID Afghanistan complex emergencies Factsheet March 2014. Retrieved 25.06.2015 from
  • Waldman, M. 2008: Community Peacebuilding in Afghanistan – the case for a national strategy, Oxford: Oxfam International.
  • World Bank 2015: Climate Risk and Adaptation Country Profiles. Afghanistan Overview. Retrieved 23.06.2015 from:

[1] The NAPA/NCSA process identified the significant lack of expertise within all relevant government departments, which severely limit the capacity of the Afghan government to undertake climate change adaptation planning, as a major challenge. Climate change is not presently regarded as a national priority (NAPA).

[2] The on-going conflict in Afghanistan emerged from a combination of several sub-conflicts. It involves an insurgency comprised of the Taliban and their associates, narcotic-orientated conflict, localised disputes motivated by opposition to local officials, and intra-state war between militias due to inflammation of regional tensions caused by international interventions (Barakat et al. 2008).

[3] It has been estimated that three quarters of the country is vulnerable to desertification (UNEP 2013).

[4] Due to human activities such as uncontrolled over grazing and deforestation, and climate change and variability impacts on soil quality and vegetation cover.

[5] Irrigated land in Afghanistan represents 3.3 million ha compared to 4.5 million ha for rain-fed agriculture.

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Briefing Note No. 12 > July 2015

Tajikistan Climate-Fragility Risk Brief

This brief draws information from field research conducted by International Alert and from International Alert’s Tajikistan case study, Climate Change, Complexity and Resilient communities (2013).

Although Tajikistan has made huge progress on poverty reduction, it is still the poorest country in Central Asia. A difficult post-Soviet transition, the 1993-1997 civil war and recurring natural disasters such as floods, landslides and drought have contributed to widespread poverty, particularly among rural people. Tajikistan is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Its vulnerability derives from limited institutional capacity, decades of underinvestment in water and sanitation infrastructure, and the legacy of Soviet central planning of natural resource management. By reducing water availability and land productivity in Central Asia, climate change poses a threat to the region’s agro-ecosystems, with a risk of crop failures and increased insecurity of food, water, energy and livelihoods. These insecurities are likely to further increase the risk of instability and conflict in the region, as riparian countries will compete more and more to secure their water access in order to achieve their development goals. Transboundary water cooperation and sustainable water management within individual countries are key to regional peace and national food, water and energy security. “Development as usual” therefore poses fragility risks in Tajikistan. Enhancing local resilience and building capacity for sustainable natural resource management in Central Asia will be critical to achieving long-term development objectives and preventing compound climate and fragility risks in the region.

Climate projections in Tajikistan

The limited climate projections available for Tajikistan suggest that it will experience higher temperatures, reduced rainfall and greater evapotranspiration, as well as increased frequency of extreme events such as floods, droughts and storms. Six percent of the country’s total area is covered by glaciers. Over the 20th century, Tajikistan’s glaciers have retreated by around 20 percent, and some have already disappeared, which can have major repercussions on river basins fed by glacial run-off that supply hydro power and water for irrigation. Climate trends will exacerbate the melting and retreat of glaciers. During this process, the risk of floods from glacial lake outbursts will increase. In the medium term, the combined effects of glacial retreat, reduction of snow pack and more severe and frequent droughts are likely to cause severe water shortages, posing threats to food-water-energy security and ecosystems (World Bank 2015).

Compound risks: Links between climate change, fragility and security

1. Climate change, water mismanagement and waste, and conflict over access to land

Agriculture is a crucial economic sector, accounting for 20 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP and providing 53 percent of employment (World Bank 2015). As the primary consumer of water in the region, agriculture is one of the sectors most at risk from water and land degradation. The economy’s orientation toward water-intensive agriculture (as seen in cotton cultivation), when coupled with faulty irrigation infrastructure, poor administration of water allocation systems and a naturally arid climate, is drying up water resources in the country. Tajikistan’s irrigation system, inherited from the Soviet era and put in place to cultivate arid lands, is decaying. Irrigation canals and pumps are steadily deteriorating, leaving some villages without direct access to water. As a result of evaporation, siltation of canals and leaking pipes, it is estimated that less than 40 percent of the water diverted from rivers actually reaches the fields (Renner, 2010). Cultivating water-intensive, export-oriented crops such as cotton, the country has not only neglected the long-term environmental impacts of dwindling water reserves, but has also impaired Tajiks’ ability to diversify their livelihoods. In the cotton-cultivating region of Tajikistan, there are few jobs outside of the cotton industry, making it difficult to find an alternative source of livelihood. Even within the cotton producing profession, the majority of incomes are, at best, at subsistence levels (International Alert 2013).

In a country where arable land is scarce and water access is inequitable, climate change impacts may exacerbate tensions over access to these resources. The Fergana Valley (situated in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) illustrates how deteriorating environmental conditions are exacerbating ethnically-based, land-related tensions, particularly along border areas where the demarcation of land has been contested (UNEP et al. 2005). Tensions that escalate into open conflict between ethnic Kyrgyz and Tajiks at the border are frequent, as illustrated by the recent violent clashes between Kyrgyz and Tajik border guard troops in January 2014, the largest border incident in the region for years. The conflict drivers were multiple, involving border delimitation of the Tajik enclave of Vorukh and the disagreement over the construction of a road that would hinder Tajiks citizens’ access to grazing land (Fabio Belafatti 2014). Those recurrent border conflicts weaken the region’s overall stability.  This valley is the region’s most important agricultural area and is the most densely populated. Demographic pressures on land, combined with deforestation, overgrazing and unsustainable agricultural practices, rapid soil degradation and salinisation as a result of poorly managed irrigation, have limited economic prospects in the region. The result is a region that is particularly vulnerable to climate change and prone to conflicts (World Bank 2015).

One of the key factors in the outbreak of the civil war in Tajikistan (1992–1997) was conflict between native and resettled populations in cotton-growing areas over access to water, land and other resources. As the root causes of the civil war continue to exist today, understanding how climate change exacerbates ongoing pressures on land and water resources becomes all the more essential.


2. Climate change, food insecurity and instability in Tajikistan

The crops in Tajikistan that are most vulnerable to climate risks are rice, wheat, alfalfa, cotton, and other water-intensive cultivation (OSCE 2010). The risk of declining yields due to the effects of climate change will continue to threaten local food security, in part by reducing farm income. Access to food is already a major challenge in Tajikistan, with around one third of the population affected by food insecurity. Food shortages happen on a regular basis, particularly in winter when bad weather and natural disasters like floods or snowstorms impede the transport of goods and people’s physical access to markets (WFP 2015).

Tajikistan is a net food importer, and the majority of the population spends between 60 to 80 percent of its income on food (WFP 2015). Because of this, the country is particularly vulnerable to a rise in food prices. The 2007-2008 food crisis in Tajikistan, which resulted from drought and a global rise in food and fuel prices, had a severe impact on food security, with the number of food insecure people reaching 2 million. The crisis peaked during the winter, which was particularly cold and plagued by damaged winter crops and reduced livestock herds (Granit et al. 2010). Food insecurity, especially when caused by higher food prices, is likely to heighten the risk of protests, rioting, civil conflict and democratic failure (Brinkman and Hendrix 2011). In the case of Tajikistan, although food price hikes did not result in public protests, already impoverished Tajiks were left feeling frustrated and angry.

Household food security in Tajikistan is highly dependent on remittances and Tajikistan is the world’s most remittance-dependent state, with remittances contributing up to 49 percent of the GDP. Estimates of the number of Tajik migrants working in Russia go from 600,000 to over one million. Their remittances are the main source of income for almost 55 percent of rural households (WFP 2015), providing more income than cotton, the country’s primary cash crop (Mitra and Vivekananda 2013). Because of the economic crisis in Russia, many Tajik migrants are returning home, with a corresponding reduction in remittances. The World Bank predicts that the downturn in Russia and the devalued rouble will push down Tajik labour migrants’ remittance transfers by 40 percent this year (Eurasia net 2015). The combined effect of numerous unemployed young men returning home without economic opportunities, in addition to the associated reduction in the majority of Tajiks’ household income, will further strain one of Central Asia’s most fragile states. The lack of sustainable livelihood opportunities for young men returning home can become a specific conflict driver. The RBC newspaper has reported that more than 178,000 Tajik nationals left Russia in the last six months of 2014 (Eurasian Geopolitics).


3. Climate-water-energy security nexus exacerbating tensions

Hydropower generates about 98 percent of Tajikistan’s domestically produced energy, further highlighting the country’s economic dependence on the availability and usage of water resources (Granit et al. 2010). Although energy is relatively cheap, this dependence on water creates an energy deficit during the winter months, when river flows are reduced. More than 1 million people in Tajikistan’s rural areas suffer frequent and prolonged blackouts each winter (UNDP 2011). Shortages of electricity during very cold periods compel people to resort to wood-cutting, intensifying deforestation, which increases vulnerability to climate change effects. The insufficient winter energy supply to schools and hospitals limits access to health and education and raises the risk of infectious diseases, especially in rural areas (BTI 2014). For this reason, energy security is key for Tajikistan’s poverty reduction strategy. When harsh winter conditions damage electricity and water infrastructure, populations blame the government’s inefficient energy policy, especially for prioritising energy supply to the aluminium plant to the detriment of domestic consumption. The harsh 2008 winter, with temperatures plunging to -15°C in towns and up to -25°C in the countryside, precipitated a rise in tensions in some districts (Vivekananda and Mitra 2013).

The water interdependence of countries in the Central Asia region means climate change is likely to aggravate regional tensions over shared water resources. The energy security objectives of upstream countries, such as Tajikistan, may conflict with downstream countries’ needs, which could result in regional tensions over the allocation of water. The downstream countries (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) have growing populations and are heavy water consumers due to cotton production, whereas the upstream countries (Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) want to use more water for electricity generation and farming (World Bank 2015). Energy efficiency in Tajikistan is of the utmost importance for development objectives and also for peaceful transboundary cooperation. Because the Central Asia region has interconnected hydraulic infrastructure inherited from Soviet times, improving water management and infrastructure will necessitate a regional approach. Better cooperation and dialogue that takes into account upstream and downstream countries’ interests will be key to reconciling diverging national interests, and will therefore foster peace in the region.


Climate change is not only an environmental issue in Tajikistan, as it compounds existing risks to people’s livelihoods and wellbeing and also affects energy security and regional stability (International Alert 2013). Managing the interrelated risks of climate change, environmental degradation and poor governance is crucial for the country’s peaceful and sustainable development. Cross sectoral collaboration within key sectors such as agriculture, trade, infrastructure and energy will be critical to promoting community resilience and to addressing these compound risks.

Written by: Clémence Finaz, Research Associate with International Alert’s Environment, Climate Change and Security Programme



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Briefing Note No. 11 > June 2015

Somalia Climate-Fragility Risk Brief

Looking at diverse set of indicators, Somalia is the country most at risk from combined high levels of fragility, disaster risk, poverty and climate-change vulnerability (Harris et al. 2013). It faces protracted conflict and humanitarian crises, and has had no centralized and functional governance structures for the past 30 years. The interlinkages between climate and environmental change, drought, poverty, fragility and protracted conflict are more pronounced than in any other country. This conflict-climate interface was illustrated by a severe humanitarian crisis in 2011-12, when an exceptional drought affected the Horn of Africa. Combined with internal socio-political factors, including the conflict with al-Shabaab, who actively interfered with humanitarian aid delivery, this drought led to acute famine and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. Although the current Somali government is aware of climate-related risks, institutional capacity is deficient; no national environmental agency has ever existed in Somalia (SCWE 2015) and there is no institutional framework or policy for environmental protection and water resources management (ADB 2013).

Climate data and projection in Somalia

Seasonal rainfall failures combined with high temperatures have occurred more frequently in Somalia in recent years, compared to the 1980s and 1990s (FSNAU 2011). This has reduced crop yields and livestock production. Due to the prolonged civil war, there are gaps in baseline climate data between 1990 and 2002, which may affect the reliability of the climate models covering the Horn. The most recent global projections show that Somalia is likely to experience a steady increase in mean temperature, rising to 3.2°C by 2080 (World Climate Research Programme, cited in Somalia’s NAPA 2013). A gradual increase in total rainfall is expected, although seasonal variability will also increase. Extreme rainfall events are expected to increase (ICPAC 2013), potentially contributing to flash floods. Ocean acidification and temperature increase may affect fish stock numbers and distribution.

Compound risks: Links between climate change, fragility and security

1. Climate change, environmental degradation, and natural resource conflict

Climate impacts are exacerbating pressures on already scarce arable land (which accounts for only 1.6 per cent of total land area; ADB 2013), fresh water and fisheries resources in the country. Unregulated and unsustainable water and land use practices, such as overgrazing and deforestation for charcoal extraction, are intensifying land degradation and desertification. Stable availability and access to grassland and water are therefore a constant challenge for the majority of the Somali people, who rely exclusively on livestock production for their livelihoods. Somalia has the highest concentration of clan-based pastoral communities in Africa, with 60 per cent of its population being nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists (Somalia’s NAPA 2013). The reduction of grazing areas and water points constrain the traditional high mobility and migration patterns of these pastoralists, leading to increased competition over access to resources. This has provoked violent clashes between pastoralists in southern Somalia and the border region with Kenya.

Degradation of rangelands has also contributed to increased cross-border pastoralist displacements in search of water and pasture. The dominance of a single ethnic group, the Somali, on both sides of the border in that region (due to both refugee influx and migration), has come at the expense of other ethnic groups. This has contributed to periodic ethnic-based clashes over land (Menkhaus 2005), which have turned more violent in recent history. Long-standing inter-clan rivalries have been fuelled as a result of a breakdown in traditional conflict mediation systems, lack of state order, increased availability of small weapons, population influx into productive lands, and increasing scarcity of natural resources. This is especially the case “when specific clans have had access to government resources and posts, while others have been marginalized and not represented in the country’s political landscape” (Dehérez 2009).

2. Climate change, disasters, and protracted conflict increasing fragility

Somalia is frequently hit by recurrent droughts and flash floods that contribute to loss of lives and livelihoods, mainly through their impact on agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone of Somalia’s economy, with livestock accounting for about 40 per cent of GDP and more than 50 per cent of export earnings (Index Mundi 2014). The sector is crucial not only in terms of meeting the food needs of the population but also in providing jobs and income to more than 65 per cent of the population.

Agriculture is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, such as flash floods or livestock and plant diseases. The 2011 drought caused a massive loss of livestock, higher food prices and a decline in demand for casual labour. The knock-on effects have included many poor people being unable to afford enough food. The ongoing conflict with al-Shabaab also contributed to food price spikes because of trade restrictions and localized blockages, leaving people with proportionally less money for food (Maxwell and Majid 2014). As most of these vulnerable groups could not access humanitarian aid or were unable to move due to armed conflict (Harris et al. 2013), the decline in trade was a significant factor in the 2011 famine (Maxwell and Majid 2014). The 2011 humanitarian crisis cost an estimated 260,000 lives. It showed that some populations are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity, among them many historically and politically marginalised clans and IDPs that constitute approximately 76 per cent of the population (Maxwell and Majid 2014).

In turn, the loss of livelihoods as a result of both drought and conflict may lower the opportunity cost to participate in violence in Somalia (Maystadt and Ecker 2014, cited in Breisinger et al. 2014), fuelling the vicious cycle of instability and insecurity. The unemployment rate for youth aged 14 to 29 is 67 per cent—one of the highest rates in the world. Under poor economic and unemployment conditions, climate-related shocks further disrupt economic activity and leave marginalised young people vulnerable to recruitment into extremists groups like al‐Shabaab (Botha and Abdile 2014). In this way, food and livelihood insecurities both result from and contribute to repeated rounds of armed conflict (Simmons 2013).

3. Climate change impact on fisheries, coastal degradation and piracy in Somalia’s water

Somali waters contain abundant fish stocks, which attract artisanal fisheries and offshore foreign fishing vessels. Eastern Africa’s fish stocks are declining due to overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices compounded by climate change. Ocean acidification will redistribute global marine species and reduce marine biodiversity, particularly in tropical areas, where yields are projected to decrease by up to 40 per cent by the 2050s (IPCC 2014). Competition between local artisanal fishing and illegal industrial trawlers has undermined local livelihoods and is one of the root causes of piracy in the region. The government’s inability to protect the shoreline, enforce fishing regulations, and exert sovereignty over its Exclusive Economic Zone has driven fishermen to raid foreign fishing trawlers. This phenomenon has made the Gulf of Aden one of the least secure maritime zones, impacting regional and international trade with cascading effects on Somalia’s economy. For example, the piracy activity in the Gulf of Aden has affected aid delivery in the country that majorly arrives by sea. In 2007-2008, the World Food Programme was forced to intermittently suspend shipments to Somalia due to security concerns in the waters, jeopardizing Somalia's food stock at a time when it was highly reliant on food aid (WFP 2007).


By further increasing the risks of fragility, climate change can place conflict resolution further out of reach in Somalia. With extreme heat waves and more variable rainfalls occurring with increasing frequency and severity, traditional livelihoods are likely to become untenable. These climate-related stressors will complicate the Somali government’s efforts to re-establish legitimacy, assert territorial control and mount an effective response against al-Shabaab. Without functioning institutions, Somalia will be far less able to implement climate adaptation measures. These factors will significantly increase its exposure to both climate risks and fragility.

Written By:

Clémence Finaz, Research Associate with International Alert Environment, Climate Change and Security Programme



  • African Development Group 2013: Somalia Country Brief 2013-2015. Retrieved 18.03.2015, from
  • Botha, Anneli; Abdile Mahdi 2014: Radicalisation and al-Shabaab recruitment in Somalia. ISS paper 266- September 2014. Institute for Security Studies and Finn Church Aid.
  • Breisinger, Clemens; Ecker, Olivier; Maystadt, Jean-François; Trinh Tan, Jean-François; Al-Riffai, Perrihan; Bouzar, Khalida; Sma, Abdelkarim;Abdelgadir, Mohamed 2014: How to Build Resilience to Conflict: The Role of Food Security. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
  • Coordinated action urged: piracy threatens UN lifeline to Somalia, 7 October 2007, World Food Programme. Retrieved 15.04.2015 from
  • Dehérez Dustin 2009: The Scarcity of Land in Somalia Natural Resources and their Role in the Somali Conflict. Occasional Paper April 2009.Bonn: Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC).
  • Dr. Ken Menkhaus 2005: Kenya-Somalia Border Conflict Analysis. Nairobi, Kenya: United States Agency for International Development.
  • Federal Republic of Somalia. Ministry of National Resources. 2013. National Adaptation Programme of Action on Climate Change (NAPA). Retrieved 15.04.2015, from
  • FNSAU 2011: Food Security and Nutrition Analysis. Post Deyr 2010/11. Technical Series Report VI. 36. March 4, 2011.
  • Harris K.; Keen D.; and Mitchell T. 2013: When Disasters and Conflicts Collide: Improving Links between Resilience and Conflict Prevention’. London: Overseas Development Institute.
  • Index Mundi. Somalia Economy Country profile 2014. Retrieved 15.03.2015 from
  • IPCC (ed.) 2014: Climate change 2014: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part A: Global and sectoral aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Simmons, Emmy 2013: Harvesting Peace: Food Security, Conflict, and Cooperation (Environmental Change & Security Program Report Vol. 14, Issue 3). Washington DC: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
  • Maxwell, Daniel; Majid, Nisar 2014: Another Humanitarian Crisis in Somalia? Learning from the 2011 Famine. Feinstein International Center, Tufts University: Medford, USA.
  • Maystadt, JF, & Ecker, O 2014: Extreme Weather and Civil War: Does Drought Fuel Conflict in Somalia through Livestock Price Shocks? American Journal of Agricultural Economics.
  • Somali Centre for Water & Environment (SCWE). Retrieved 18.04.2015, from
  • UNDP/ICPAC 2013: NAPA Report for Somalia - Climate Variability and Projections. Produced by the Inter-Governmental Climate Predictions and Assessment Centre (ICPAC) on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme for Somalia, using (inter alia) data obtained from the Somalia Water and Land Information Monitoring (SWALIM) database.
  • World Vision Complex 2015: Resilience Systems Analysis – Somalia, Participants briefing pack.
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Briefing Note No. 10 > June 2015

Honduras Climate-Fragility Risk Brief

Honduras has been a relatively stable democracy since military rule ended in 1981[1]; unlike many of its neighbours, it did not experience a protracted civil war during the late 20th century. However, it remains the second-poorest country in Central America, with the world’s highest homicide rate and widespread corruption and impunity. It is plagued by protracted development challenges including extreme economic inequalities, rural poverty, low levels of education, high levels of crime and gang violence, lack of economic opportunities, particularly among youth, and acute environmental degradation. Climate change and climate variability place additional strain on the Honduran government’s capacity to effectively address these socio-economic challenges.

Climate change projections in Honduras

Honduras’ climate is projected to get hotter and drier. By 2050, average temperature increase may reach up to 2°C, with expected annual precipitation reductions ranging from 7.5 to 14 per cent (UNDP BCPR 2013). Climate change effects will increase the frequency and severity of climate-related hazards, which already occur on a regular basis. Honduras experienced approximately 50 extreme weather events between 1980 and 2008 (GFDRR), including tropical storms and hurricanes, which often led to extensive flooding, landslides and mudslides, and had a devastating impact on crop production and critical infrastructure. Honduras is also vulnerable to periodic droughts, which particularly impact the rural poor. By mid-century, Western Honduras may become a “hotspot” of climate vulnerability in the region (USAID 2014). This is due to its exposure to climate hazards interacting with poverty, population growth, and the limited human, financial, and technical capacity of local institutions to respond. The consequences of climate-related disasters are wide ranging, impacting GDP, unemployment, livelihoods, food security and the prevalence of malnutrition; an estimated 1.5 million Hondurans already face hunger at some point each year (WFP 2015). 

Compound risks: Links between climate change, fragility and security

1. Climate change, agriculture and livelihood insecurity

Agriculture[2] is the backbone of the Honduran economy, employing nearly 40 per cent of the workforce and contributing up to 40-45 per cent of the GDP (UNDP BCPR 2013). With almost 95 per cent of crops being rain-fed, the sector is highly dependent on stable climate conditions. Projected climate impacts will affect the productivity of all crops in Honduras, from nutritional staples such as maize and beans to export crops such as coffee and horticultural products, impacting agriculture-reliant livelihoods and household food security (USAID 2014).

In some ways, agriculture and aquaculture practices also increase vulnerability to climate-related shocks and stressors, for example, through unsustainable natural resource management resulting in rapid forest and land degradation. Honduras has the highest deforestation rate in Central America: between 1990 and 2005, 37.1 per cent of the forests of Honduras disappeared. Combined with the shift towards water-intensive monoculture of export crops and cattle ranching, smallholding subsistence farmers are pushed to ever-poorer and steeper soils (UNDP BCPR 2013). Other ecosystems such as mangroves have also been reduced substantially by increasing shrimp farm activity (World Bank, 2009). This increases vulnerability to shocks (e.g. storms), and to medium- to long-term stresses (e.g. sea-level rise) by removing the coastal barrier that protects against erosion and absorbs some of the destructive power of storms and high tides.  Since 2012-13, the coffee leaf rust outbreak (la roya) is devastating coffee crops in Central America, reducing yields and quality. The negative impacts on jobs and particularly on unskilled day labourers have cascading effects on both internal and external migration. This may potentially increase crime and insecurity, as coffee workers seek alternative incomes in drug-related livelihoods in gangs and narco-trafficking networks. Even if the consequences of such climate-induced shock are still under-researched, the example highlights how climate change can interact with the security environment and contribute to increasing fragility in a country like Honduras (Rüttinger et al. 2015).

Climate change, the Coffee leaf Rust, and fragility in Honduras

Coffee is the highest valued cash crop in Honduras and the main foreign exchange earner (FAO, 2011). The crop is particularly vulnerable to diseases or parasites even under moderate changes in temperatures and rainfall, specifically during blossoming and fruit development. The recent Coffee Leaf Rust (la Roya) outbreak began in 2011 following above-average rainfall and temperatures. This illustrated the knock-on consequences of a changing climate, through the impact of a fungus that plagued more than half of the total Central American coffee crops (USAID 2014). The impacts of Coffee Leaf Rust on coffee production, and consequently on livelihoods and the entire economy, were devastating in Honduras, the second-biggest coffee producer in Central America. In the 2012-2013 period, Honduras experienced significant economic losses totalling approximately $230 million and 100,000 job losses, (representing almost 20 percent of the total workforce) particularly among unskilled and poor wage labourers in the agricultural sector (International Coffee Organisation 2013). These events indicate how sensitive the coffee value chain is to climate-related shocks and the magnitude of impacts on livelihoods and the economy. Negative coping strategies and effects on migration patterns are still unknown, but anecdotal evidence indicates that they may have negative impacts on household resilience in the longer term.


2. Climate change and natural disasters pushing states toward fragility

According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2015, Honduras was the country most affected by extreme weather events between 1994 and 2013 (Germanwatch, 2015). This ranking is partly due to the impact of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. In the aftermath of the disaster, an estimated 70 per cent of the country’s crops and 70 per cent of the nation’s transport infrastructure were destroyed, causing US$3 billion in economic damages. The hurricane triggered social dislocation and large-scale migration to the north, potentially contributing to the country’s continued instability (RUSI 2010).

The response to Hurricane Mitch highlighted the weaknesses of the Honduran state, which was unable to deal with both the immediate relief efforts and medium-term recovery planning (Jackson 2005). Honduran disaster response capability remains extremely weak due to a lack of financial resources and operational capacities, despite efforts toward disaster risk management and disaster risk reduction. Since the 1980s, repeated shocks, both economic[3] and environmental, have increased Honduras’ fragility. The economic impact of Hurricane Mitch took the country's development process back by almost 50 years (Fundacion Vida 2012). It created a dependency on foreign aid, which accounted for 16 per cent of GDP in 1999, compared with 6.3 per cent before the disaster (Mechler 2004).

Slow onset disasters are also a threat in Honduras. In summer 2014, a prolonged canícula (seasonal dry spell) occurred causing damage to crops and affecting more than 500,000 people. Maize production was almost 75 per cent below normal in the south-western region of Honduras (Fews Net 2014) leading to acute food insecurity, malnutrition and migration to urban areas. People moved from rural areas into overcrowded cities such as San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, known for being among the most violent cities in the world, or out of the country to the USA, looking for employment. This further exposed them to urban violence and made the children of migrants particularly vulnerable to gang recruitment by maras. Combined factors in urban settings such as poverty, high levels of youth unemployment, and labour migration to urban centres which cannot cope with the demand for jobs nor infrastructure, are widely agreed to be specific conflict drivers (Fetzek and Vivekananda 2015).


3. The climate change-migration-violence nexus in Honduras

Honduras has the highest crime rates in the world, with pervasive gang criminality (the maras), narco-trafficking and prostitution. Youth, who represent the majority of the population (50 per cent of Hondurans are under the age of 21; CIA World Fact book 2014) are particularly exposed to gang recruitment as they suffer endemic poverty and chronic unemployment. Honduras has become a transhipment place for drug trafficking, due to its porous borders with neighbouring countries and weak state capacities. The limited budget and capacity of the state in providing adequate security has led to a focus of crime-reduction efforts in urban areas (RUSI 2010). The resulting security vacuum in rural areas has enabled the proliferation of criminal groups, who are able to offer alternative sources of support to rural communities. In turn, the rise in criminality and violence is inflicting high costs to the Honduras state; the World Bank estimates that the annual costs of violence accounts for about 10 per cent of the country's GDP (nearly US $900 million) (World Bank Honduras Overview 2015).

Violence is not just a security concern but also one of the main obstacles to economic and social development and to resilience in the context of climate change (Tellman 2014). Chronic insecurity and violence impact communities and livelihoods through death of family members, loss of assets or forced migration. Migration flows to overcrowded cities raises concerns of adequate economic opportunities, provision of basic services, potential for the fuelling of human trafficking and overall security situation (UNDP BCPR 2013).


Violence presents serious security, social and economic challenges in Honduras. The feedback loops between climate impacts on livelihoods, migration and state capacities are likely to exacerbate existing fragility and vulnerability risks in Honduras. There remains a significant gap in understanding migration patterns in Honduras in the context of multiple stresses and shocks, among them violence, climate change, and disasters.


Written By:

Clémence Finaz, Research Associate with International Alert’s Environment, Climate Change and Security Programme



  • Altschuler, D, ‘One Year After the Honduras Coup: Isolation, Insecurity, Impunity’, Huffington Post, June 30 2010. Retrieved 11.04.2015, from
  • BBC 2015: Honduras Country Profile. Retrieved 20.04.2015, from
  • CIA World Fact Book 2014: Honduras. Retrieved 12.04.2015 from
  • Feakin, T., Depledge, D. 2010:  Climate-related impacts on national security in Mexico and Central America. Final report. London: Royal United Service Institute (RUSI).
  • Fetzek, S. and Vivekananda, J. 2015: Climate change, violence and young people. Report for Unicef UK. London: The International Institute for Strategic Studies.
  • FEWS NET 2014: Central America Food Security Alert December 20, 2014. Retrieved 18.04.2015, from
  • Fundacion Vida 2012: Honduras Case Study on the National Strategy on Climate Change and Agriculture/Food Security. Retrieved 12.04.2015, from
  • Hamza M. and Corendea C., 2012: Climate Change and Fragile States: Rethinking Adaptation. ‘Studies of the University: Research, Counsel, Education’. Publication Series of UNU-EHS No. 16/2012. Bonn: United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).  
  • Index Mundi 2015: Honduras Economy Profile 2014. Retrieved 13.04.2015, from
  • Jackson, J.T. 2005: The Globalizers: Development Workers in Action. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Kreft, S., D. Eckstein, L. Junghans, C. Kerestan and U. Hagen (2014) GLOBAL CLIMATE RISK INDEX 2015, Who Suffers Most From Extreme Weather Events? Weather-related Loss Events in 2013 and 1994 to 2013, Briefing Paper. Germanwatch: Bonn.
  • Mechler, R. 2004: Natural Disaster Risk Management and Financing Disaster Losses in Developing Countries. Verlag fuer Versicherungswissenschaft, Karlsruhe.
  • Parker, J., Miller, K., Caballero Bonilla, L., Escolan, R., Muñoz, E., Del Rio, A., Banegas, R., Rivera, O., and Seimon, A. 2014: Vulnerability and Resilience to Climate Change in Southern Honduras. USAID African and Latin American Resilience to Climate Change Program. Washington, DC: U.S. Agency for International Development.
  • PreventionWeb 2010 : Honduras. Informe Nacional del Progreso en la Implementación del Marco de Acción de Hyogo (2009-2011). HFA monitor. Retrieved 12.04.2015, from
  • Rüttinger, Lukas; Gerald Stang, Dan Smith, Dennis Tänzler, Janani Vivekananda, Alexander Carius, Oli Brown, Geoff Dabelko, Roger-Mark De Souza, Shreya Mitra, Katharina Nett, Meaghan Parker and Benjamin Pohl 2015: A New Climate for Peace – Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks. Executive Summary. Berlin/London/Washington/Paris: adelphi, International Alert, The Wilson Center, EUISS.
  • Tellman, B., Alaniz, R., Rivera, A. and Contreras, D. 2014 : Violence as an obstacle to livelihood resilience in the context of climate change. UNU-EHS Working Paper Series, No. 3. Bonn: United Nations University Institute of Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) 2013: Climate Risk Management for Smallholder Agriculture in Honduras. New York, NY: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR).
  • World Bank, Global Facility for Disasters Risk Reduction: Disaster Risk Management in Central America: GFDRR Country Notes. Honduras. Washington DC.: Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. Retrieved 13.04.2015 from
  • World Bank. 2009: Honduras - Country Note on Climate Change Aspects in Agriculture. Washington, DC. Retrieved 12.04.2015, from
  • World Bank 2015: Honduras Country profile. Retrieved 15.04.2015 from:
  • World Food Program 2015:  Honduras Country Overview. Retrieved 15.04.2015, from

[1] We used the word “relatively” given that the country experienced a coup d’état in 2009.

[2]  Agriculture is defined as a managed system of crops, livestock, soil management, forest resources (productive use, goods & services) and water resources (irrigation), including land use and land use change (World Bank 2009 Country Note on Climate Change Aspects in Agriculture- Honduras).

[3] In 2008 the decrease of global prices of the exported crops, notably bananas and coffee impacted heavily State revenues from exports, aggravating the country external debt.

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Briefing Note No. 9 > May 2015

Egypt Climate-Fragility Risk Brief

This Country Risk Brief is based on desk-based research and consultations International Alert undertook in Egypt in 2014.

Egypt’s population is over 83 million, making it the most heavily populated country in the Arab World and the third largest in Africa. Given that the country is almost entirely desert, 96 per cent of the population is concentrated within the confines of 4 per cent of the land along the Nile River valley and delta. Population growth, limited natural resources and strained urban systems present a number of interlinked challenges for Egypt. Climate change will put additional pressure on already limited natural resources, namely water and arable land, while rapid urbanisation and population growth will impair the prospects for sustainable resource management. Although climate projections for Egypt indicate significant adverse impacts, the topic of climate change is politically avoided. One reason for this is the incremental nature of impacts: Nile flows convey an “illusion of abundance” and there is little awareness of the need for water conservation and planning for the future.


Climate projections in Egypt

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) listed the Nile Delta as one of the areas most vulnerable to climate change globally. Climate change will affect Egypt mainly in three ways: temperature rise, sea level rise and decreased water availability. These impacts will have an adverse effect on existing environmental and natural-resource stresses faced by Egypt, namely pressures on irrigable land for food production and for human habitation along the Nile Delta.


Compound risks: Links between climate change, fragility and security


1. Climate change, water and livelihoods insecurity

One of the major causes of the revolution in 2010/11 and the regime change in July 2014 was economic stress, which was compounded by pressures on natural resources such as food, water and energy.

Water insecurity and water mismanagement arouse population’s grievances

Egypt is an arid country, where average per capita water consumption is less than 700 cubic metres of water a year. Freshwater resource needs are met almost entirely by the Nile River (95-98 per cent). Climate impacts on the availability of water from the Nile will present significant threats to food security, livelihoods and well-being of those directly and indirectly dependent on the Nile. Economic growth in Egypt threatens the quality and quantity of water resources, increasing the existing problem of contamination, and contributing to water insecurities. The problem is as much one of poor distribution and management as lack of supply. Heavy government subsidies encourage inefficiencies, and unequal distribution of water contributes to water insecurity. Water insecurity and particularly water shortages have already spurred popular protests in Egypt. In July 2010, 600 people from the southern governorate of Minya staged a sit-down protest outside the Irrigation Ministry in Cairo to protest the lack of water for their land.

Climate change and transboundary water issues

The Nile basin’s richest and most powerful riparian, Egypt, is also its most important downstream country and is directly affected by dams upstream on the Nile, in particular in Uganda and by proposed new dams in Ethiopia. Current pressures on Nile water resources, ranging from increased water consumption regionally to the disruption caused by dam-building in upstream countries, will be exacerbated by climate change impacts such as greater variability in seasonal flows, and relatively less available water and increasing salinization. This will strain Egypt’s already fragile food, water and energy security. Frequent power cuts in Egypt are also a political challenge which requires engaging with upstream Nile Basin states. Given rising internal pressure on the Egyptian regime to achieve these security objectives, there is a real risk that the Egyptian government may take refuge in nationalism and seek to prevent further upstream water infrastructure development by force, such as supporting rebel groups or fostering political destabilization, and fragility in the region (Rüttinger et al. 2015). Better Nile river management provides opportunities to adapt to climate change and build peace in the region. Dialogue, common decision-making and cooperation serve as a catalyst for greater regional integration and peacebuilding.


2. Climate change, price volatility, food insecurity and politics of subsidies increase fragility  

Food prices rises and volatility contributing to food insecurity and instability

Feeding Egypt’s growing population presents a major challenge, especially given the pressure on arable land. The loss of agricultural land due to urban expansion is a serious issue. Climate impacts on the quality and quantity of global food production are contributing to rising food prices. For Egypt this is particularly problematic as it is highly dependent on food imports; it is the world’s largest wheat importer. Whilst self-sufficiency is not a realistic goal, in view of the demographic and water pressures the country faces, the reliance on external sources to meet food requirements leaves Egypt vulnerable to food price shocks.

In 2008, average world wheat prices rose 130 per cent above their level a year earlier. This particularly affected poor Egyptians, who spend more than 40 percent of their income on food, and urban areas like Cairo, where the food riots broke out in 2008 around the price of bread. In 2010-2011, a severe winter drought in China reduced global wheat supply and contributed to global wheat shortages and skyrocketing bread prices in Egypt. The high cost of food crystalized economic and political dissatisfaction in Egypt, contributed to violent citizen protests, and indirectly led to regime change in Egypt in 2011 (Werrell and Femia 2013).

Food and the problem of subsidies

Egypt has a long-standing tradition of subsidizing food, especially wheat dating back to the Nasser Administration to counter recurrent shocks and maintain political stability. However, Egyptian food subsidies have been criticized for being costly and inefficient. In 2008/09, the fiscal cost of food subsidies accounted for 2 per cent of GDP. In addition, 28 percent of food subsidies did not reach the most vulnerable households. At the macro level, government subsidies widened the budget deficit and deepened Egypt’s dependency on external investors. As food subsidies create expectations from the population, government removal of subsidies, it can spur protests and even violent riots contributing to the country instability, as illustrated the violent 1977 riots in Egypt caused by the sharp increase in bread prices in the wake of reduced subsidies urged by the IMF and World Bank. In turn, political instability in Egypt cut foreign investments and reduced tourism, expanding the finance gap, which made it difficult to implement the necessary reforms (IMF 2014).


3. Population, urbanisation and instability

Youth bulge and violence

Egypt’s economy struggles to meet the employment and income needs of its population, half of whom live below the poverty line. The population is projected to grow to approximately 140 million by 2050. There is very high unemployment in Egypt, particularly among educated youth, where unemployment of college graduates is ten times higher than of non-graduates. Egypt’s demographic make-up presents particular challenges given that over 54 per cent of the population are under twenty-four years. Youth populations experiencing a combination of lack of economic opportunities (especially when combined with educational attainment, and concomitant expectations), lack of political voice and a sense of relative deprivation, present a higher risk to political stability. This became evident during the 2010-2011 demonstrations on Tahrir Square, which brought Egypt’s economy to a halt and pressured President Hosni Mubarak to resign. The majority of participants of the demonstrations were young, unemployed or underemployed and disaffected.  

Part of the social unrest in 2010-11 was related with the erosion of the social contract and state capacity to meet the basic needs of the population. Gross human rights violations by the police and the lack of a functioning justice system have undermined the legitimacy of parts of the security sector, which also presents a major challenge to stability.

Cities at risk of conflict and violence

Pockets of fragility are likely to emerge in urban settings. Rapid urbanisation and urban encroachment around metropolitan areas of Cairo and Alexandria, as well as around the cities in the delta, are increasing burdens on urban infrastructure, basic service provision and agricultural productivity. As urban development reaches its physical limits, pressures on supply are likely to result in more young people without jobs and living in informal settlements and other marginalized areas that are highly vulnerable to climate change. If not adequately planned, urbanization could result in increased unemployment, poverty and violence in urban areas. Urban violence has indeed been identified as a major risk pending on Egypt’s growing cities. Daily incidences of urban violence are reported throughout Egypt, with hotspots in Northern Sinai. Cairo is at particular risk, as it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and the overcrowded and under-serviced metropolitan area contributed to the demonstrations in Tahrir Square.



Presently, very little attention is given to climate change adaptation or mitigation in Egypt. Since the impacts of climate change in Egypt are not as directly felt as in countries such as Jordan, due to the current availability of water in the Nile, there is political avoidance and wilful blindness towards the issue. Efforts to address the country’s energy challenges comprise non-renewables such as coal rather than investment in highly viable renewables such as wind and solar power. If Egypt invests in coal-fired power stations now, it will not only be locked into carbon emissions, but also into importing coal, which puts the country at risk of future energy insecurity if supply lines are limited by continued regional instability. Improving water use and reducing losses are essential for mitigating future risks to economic and political stability. Focusing on comparative advantage by promoting cash crops would also help balance costs of food imports. Equally pressing are steps to taper population growth through sexual and reproductive health measures.


Entry points:

  • Economy and investment are national priorities and areas where the G7 have most space to work. Investment is the best way to encourage buy-in from the Government of Egypt. There is also a need to reduce the army’s role in the economy (albeit the biggest land owner in Egypt, the army is exempt from paying taxes, such as the new land tax).
  • Population growth stresses the capacity of the state to provide services and maintain legitimacy. Population momentum will maintain Egypt's youth bulge over the next two decades, so infrastructure and governance provision will need to cater for the increasing demands of a growing population. Addressing the unmet need for voluntary sexual and reproductive health measures is a priority in the face of increasing climate and resource pressures.
  • Sustainable agricultural production systems and better water infrastructure are necessary priorities to cope with increased population, limited productive land and water.

These three factors need technical solutions that do not lead to maladaptation or inadvertently fuel conflict.


Written By:

Clémence Finaz, Research Associate with International Alert’s Environment, Climate Change and Security Programme



  • Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (2013): Population. Egypt Statistical Yearbook, 2013, 4. (accessed 2 September 2014).
  • Climate Change Central Department and Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs (2010): Egypt National Environmental, Economic and Development Study (NEEDS) for Climate Change Under the UNFCCC. Retrieved from application/pdf/egypt_final_report_needs.pdf.
  • El-Ramady et al. (2013): Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change in Egypt, Sustainable Agriculture Reviews, 12. 41-95.
  • El-Sadek, A,(2010): Virtual Water Trade as a Solution for Water Scarcity in Egypt, Water Resource Management, 24, 2437-2448.
  • FAO (2007), cited in El-Agha, et al. (2010): Performance Assessment of Irrigation Water Management in Old Lands of the Nile Delta Egypt, Irrigation and Drainage Systems, 25, 215-236.
  • Gerfeslt, B. (2007): Allocating Irrigation Water in Egypt. Case Study 8-4 of the Program: Food Policy in Developing Countries: The Role of Government in the Global Food System. New York: Cornell University.
  • LaGraffe, D. (2012): The Youth Bulge in Egypt: An Intersection of Demographics, Security , and the Arab Spring. Journal of Strategic Security 5 (2), pp 65-80.
  • Merrill, John C., "Water management and decisionmaking in the Nile Basin: A case study of the Nile Basin Initiative" (2008). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.
  • United Nations Population Division (2010): World Population Prospects: 2010 Revision, available at
  • Urdal, Henrik (2011): A Clash of Generations? Youth Bulges and Political Violence, United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Adolescents, Youth and Development, Population Division, DESA, available at
  • Weber, P. and Harris, J. (2008): Egypt and Food Security, Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 23 October 2008. (Accessed 2 Sep 2014).
  • Werrell, C. E., and Femia, F. (eds.) (2013): The Arab Spring and Climate Change: A Climate and Security Correlations Series. Washington: Center for Climate and Security.
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Briefing Note No. 8 > May 2015

Lebanon Climate-Fragility Risk Brief

Fragility risks in Lebanon are increasing due to growing internal and external pressures. Spill-over economic and social effects of the Syrian conflict, particularly an increase in the number of Syrian refugees, have fuelled old tensions and created new ones. The government’s capacity to meet the basic needs of a growing population is being stretched, particularly in the context of increased competition for livelihoods and access to public services. Areas considered hotspots of vulnerability, e.g. Tripoli and Akkar in the north, where poverty is concentrated, and Beqaa[1], along the Syrian border, face particular challenges. Fragility manifests itself through increased sectarian violence, erosion of social cohesion, cross-border shelling with both Syria and Israel, and political and economic insecurity. Climatic changes and environmental degradation are compounding existing pressure on natural resources, affecting agriculture, public health, energy and water, critical sectors of the Lebanese economy.

Climate projections in Lebanon

By 2040, average temperatures are expected to increase by around 1°C on the coast and 2°C in the mainland. Rainfall patterns, on the other hand, are expected to decrease by 10-20 per cent, negatively affecting surface and groundwater recharge rates and decreasing water availability during the summer season and drought periods (Lebanon Second Communication to the UNFCCC). Increased seawater intrusion, as a result of sea level rise, will further impact water quality in coastal areas, where 70 per cent of the Lebanese population lives (Hoff 2012).  Unless counter measures are adopted, these changes will have diverse negative effects on Lebanon's environment, economy and social structure.

Compound risks: Links between climate change, fragility and security

1. Climate change and access to natural resources affecting fragility risks in Lebanon

Lebanon will feel the effects of climate change primarily through the availability and distribution of water. The country is already experiencing extremely high baseline water stress (World Resource Institute 2013). Climate change impacts on water and land resources in conjunction with population growth (from high birth rates and immigration) will compound the knock-on consequences of land and water mismanagement practices in Lebanon that contribute to the waste and degradation of these key resources.

Water and Agriculture: Agriculture is responsible for 60 per cent of total water demand. It is at risk from water shortages due to water wastage, pollution and expected increases in demand for domestic use, resulting in decreased availability for irrigation. Irrigated crops, which account for 50 per cent of the total cultivated land in Lebanon, continue to be primitively managed, with negative effects on yields (Darwish 2012). Lebanon lacks the necessary regulations to monitor irrigation, groundwater usage and pumping, which leads to uncontrolled groundwater extraction. Regions heavily dependent on irrigated agriculture, such as the Bekka and Akkar regions, are therefore extremely vulnerable to changes in the availability of water. Agriculture is also affected by losses of arable land and rapid land degradation, which is mainly attributable to the absence of land use planning (Darwish 2012). In light of climate change and environmental risk, the critical margin for manoeuvre lies in efficient water and land supply and demand management, as well as better natural resources governance and conservation practices.

Water and public health: Lebanese households, particularly the poor, rely on inferior-quality piped water, increasing the risks of water- and vector-borne diseases such as typhoid. Water quality is not only a matter of public health but also has serious socio-economic consequences. Health problems related to water consumption often result in an increase in health care expenditure and absence from work, impacting human productivity and economic growth as a whole (Ministry of the Environment). In addition to health impacts, poor water quality increases the costs of water treatment[2], disfavouring the poorest households who cannot afford potable bottled water, exacerbating existing inequalities in potable water access and economic security.

2. Climate change, water scarcity and energy dependency overburden import-dependent states and contribute to fragility

Lebanon is dependent on food and energy imports; energy imports account for more than 95 per cent of Lebanon’s primary energy needs (Hoff 2012). The country is therefore particularly vulnerable to energy price volatility and shocks. Given its concerns with energy security, Lebanon is increasingly looking to renewable energy to reduce its high energy import bills. However, Lebanon’s commitment to increase its share of renewable energy in power generation to 12 per cent by 2020 will impact water-associated demands (Hoff 2012). Climate change is likely to increase energy demands for cooling, which already account for 20 per cent of total energy consumption in Lebanon. At the same time, climate change is projected to reduce hydropower production potential (Lebanon Second communication to UNFCCC). This illustrates the need to integrate different visions of adaptation as they relate to water, energy and agriculture policy in order to address these multiple and interrelated challenges in a unified way.

3. Climate change exacerbates the pressure on local resources in Lebanon: Refugee influx, livelihoods insecurity and increased communal tensions

Lebanon hosts the highest concentration of refugees in recent history. It is estimated that at least 1.13 million Syrian refugees have registered with the UN in Lebanon[3], amounting to one quarter of the resident population (Security Council Report Lebanon 2014), which already hosts a significant number of Palestinian refugees. The refugee influx is increasing pressure on the delivery of basic services and on access to resources such as water and electricity. It increases the cost of rents, competition for jobs and increasing environmental stress. The competition for economic opportunities and access to basic public services has caused resentment among host communities toward the refugee population. The health sector is a case in point, where an over-burdening of healthcare centres and reduced access to basic care for vulnerable Lebanese has led to increased tensions (International Alert 2014).

These risks are particularly concentrated in rural areas of Lebanon, which have the highest concentration of Syrian refugees and where local Lebanese populations are already facing food, water and livelihood insecurities. For instance, north Lebanon and the Bekaa region host two thirds of the country's refugees. These are Lebanon’s poorest regions and are particularly exposed to climate and environmental risks, such as floods. In fact, Syrian refugees tend to be concentrated in the flood prone areas of the region (UNHCR 2014). However, because many of the northern host communities have reached their absorptive capacity and have become hostile environments due to strained economic conditions and increased sectarian tensions, Syrian refugees tend to move into southern and western Lebanon looking for economic opportunities (USAID 2014). Supporting livelihoods and well-being for both refugees and host populations in Lebanon is a key strategy for peacebuilding efforts.

4. Degrading security situation in Lebanon

Since 2011, due to the Syrian war, the security situation has been deteriorating. Increased poverty and unemployment, lack of infrastructure and social security are providing a fertile ground for effects from the Syrian conflict to spill over into Lebanon, leading to deadly clashes between supporters of the Syrian regime and supporters of the Syrian rebels. With Hezbollah fighting in Syria alongside the regime forces and the Syrian army bombing border villages and mountains to target rebel groups, a series of suicide bombings and explosions commenced in July 2013, targeting Beirut and Baalbek neighbourhoods, which are seen as Hezbollah strongholds (Wannis 2014).

The potential escalation of the conflict between Israel forces and Hezbollah represents yet another security threat for Lebanon. Military operations have destructive impacts on Lebanese households particularly in the south, along the Lebanese-Israeli border. Fears of conflict escalation reaching a level violence similar to the war in the summer of 2006 are real and remain.

The impact of conflict on peoples’ livelihoods and critical assets complicate efforts to break the cycle of violence. The recruitment of socio-economically vulnerable people by extremist groups in Lebanon (mainly along the Syrian border) is worrying, as it is leading to increased paramilitary capacity outside the authority of the state, thereby increasing fragility (Security Council report 2014). A recent study shows that for most Lebanese, poverty is the main reason for insecurity, followed by unemployment (Mercy Corps 2013). This highlights the importance of promoting sustainable livelihoods and socio-economic opportunities in building stability and peace in Lebanon.


Bold governmental actions are needed on social, economic, and environmental fronts in order to minimize climate change and fragility risks. In order to tackle the long term detrimental impact of the interplay of conflict, climate change and environmental degradation, Lebanon must look beyond the short and medium term stabilisation objectives and address longer-term drivers of insecurity. Policies and interventions designed in each critical sector (environment, security and humanitarian assistance) should be targeted to create benefits for the Lebanese population and refugees, especially those most affected by the Syrian crisis.


Written By:

Clémence Finaz, Research Associate with International Alert’s Environment, Climate Change and Security Programme




  • Hoff, Holger 2012: Regional Technical Cooperation Programme
Adaptation to Climate Change in the Water Sector in the MENA Region (ACCWaM). Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ): Cairo.
  • Hovig, Wannis 2014: Perceptions of security and insecurity in Lebanon. Background Paper November 2014. Beirut: International Alert Lebanon.
  • Darwish, Talal 2012: Country Study on Status of Land Tenure, Planning and Management in Oriental Near East Countries, Case of Lebanon. Food Agriculture Organization (FAO): Rome.
  • International Alert 2014: Conflict Sensitivity Institutional Capacity Assessment: Primary Healthcare Sector in Lebanon Assessment Report, Conflict Sensitivity Checklist and Indicators for Community Perceptions. London: International Alert.
  • Mercy Corps 2013: Things fall apart: Political, economic and social instability in Lebanon. 1 – 24. Retrieved 10.04.2015 from
  • Ministry of the Environment, Lebanon, 2011: Lebanon’s Second Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • Ministry of the Environment, Lebanon: State of the environment Report. Chapter 8. Retrieved 20.04.2015 from
  • Security Council 2014 : Report Monthly forecast October 2014. Retrieved 16.04.2015 from
  • UNHCR 2013: Lebanon: Vulnerability and conflict map: Intervention priorities (October). Unpublished map.
  • UNHCR 2014: Interagency information sharing Portal, regional overview, Syria Regional Refugee Response. 30 May 2014. Retrieved 10.04.2015 from
  • USAID 2014: Office of Transition Initiatives- Lebanon fact sheet June 2014. Retrieved 15.05.2015, from
  • World Resources Institute 2013: Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas. Retrieved 5.04.2015 from



[1] Meeting Vulnerable Municipalities, July 2013 (UNHCR, UNICEF, and PCM), updated July 2014.

[2] Ecodit has calculated the costs of the health impacts of water pollution at US$7.3 million per year and the costs of excess bottled water consumption at about US$7.5 million (Lebanon State of the Environment Report Ministry of Environment/LEDO)

[3] Actual numbers are likely to be much higher

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Briefing Note No. 7 > May 2015

“Climate change, violence and young people” 
Report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, January 2015


This 21 page report assesses how youth bulges and climate change can interact and multiply the risk of violence in regions already vulnerable to poor governance and social and political instability. Violence is defined here as civil conflicts, anti-state political violence and civil unrest. The report identifies sub-Saharan Africa as the region most at risk, with several other sub-regions facing concurrent demographic and climate dynamics that could negatively impact the security environment. The report recommends prioritizing equitable, climate-resilient economic growth, and strengthening democratic institutions to improve livelihoods and political inclusion for young people, in order to promote peace and stability. The research was commissioned by UNICEF-UK for the start of their five-year campaign on long-term threats to youth, and was co-authored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies and International Alert. It is the first research report on youth, climate and violence linkages. It uses case studies on Egypt, Guatemala, Indonesia and Kenya, all of which have youth bulges and limited resilience to climate impacts.


In detail

The study looks out to 2050, when global population is projected to reach 9.6 billion and both climate impacts and the concentration of youth bulges in developing countries will be more evident. Many of these countries are currently fragile, and are predicted to be among the most exposed to the impacts of climate change, yet have the lowest resilience and capacity to adapt. 

The first section outlines the links between climate change, environmental stress and violence, highlighting the ways that weak state capacities, poverty and unemployment can increase risk. It notes that youth are among the most vulnerable to climate impacts. The authors take care to not overstate the links between population growth and environmental degradation, noting that technology and consumption patterns mediate this relationship.

The second section describes the conditions under which youth bulges are associated with increased risk of violence, such as lack of economic opportunity, weak political structures and poorly-serviced urbanization. It argues that large youth bulges increase the risks of civil violence occurring, for example by mobilising large numbers of people for political protest, but that any such violence is only likely when other factors conducive to political upheaval are present. 

The report gives an overview of the geographical distribution of large youth cohorts, which will continue to be located predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa, the region at the highest risk of climate- and youth-related security stressors. The report also identifies other regions where state fragility, climate vulnerability and youth bulges overlap: Central America’s Northern Triangle; Middle Eastern countries including Yemen, Iraq and Palestine; and several countries in Asia including Afghanistan, East Timor, Bangladesh and the Philippines. 

Reinforcing multiple risk factors

A key theme of the report is the compounding risk factors created by youth bulges, existing drivers of insecurity, and climate impacts. Conditions such as high youth unemployment, unmet expectations, rapid urban population growth, poorly functioning democratic institutions, political grievances and exclusion can increase the risk of violence in settings with large youth cohorts. Weak basic service provision on the part of the state is often correlated with youth bulges, and reinforces many of these risks. 

Climate change impacts have the potential to further exacerbate all of these issues, the report argues, and this effect may be particularly acute if an unstable political or economic environment impairs a country’s capacity to implement climate adaptation measures. The report concludes that the areas where these factors overlap and interact may experience higher risks of violence as a consequence.

For example, Egypt is the most populous Arab country, with a third of Egyptians under the age of 15. Free education and limited economic opportunities have resulted in a high unemployment rate, fueling grievances with the government and civil unrest. Egypt’s vulnerability to water stress, sea level rise and food price shocks will increase as climate impacts accelerate. Its unstable political environment limits climate adaptation prospects and economic growth opportunities.


The study highlights the key role of economic factors in influencing the risk of violence in both climate- and youth-related contexts. In order to absorb youth into the labour market and harness their potential to boost growth and development, the report recommends that education systems evolve alongside economic policies and labour-market strategies to prepare for larger numbers of graduates, foster inclusive growth and to transition to economic activity that is resilient in a climate-changed future.

However, it warns that states experiencing situations of fragility tend to lack the governance capacities, stable macroeconomic conditions and investment environment required to implement these policies. The report closes by reaffirming that building economic and social capital in order to promote peace and stability will be particularly relevant in countries that face the combined challenges of youth bulges and limited resilience to climate impacts.



Climate and demographic models provide mid-century projections with reasonably high levels of confidence, so the identification of countries where these two risk factors will be highest is fairly reliable. However, both risk factors are subject to moderating forces. These include improved development and basic service provision, e.g. for sexual and reproductive health measures, which could slow population momentum. Implementation of climate adaptation measures in the next two decades could reduce climate vulnerability in high-risk countries, making projections of combined vulnerability to these two drivers in 2050 somewhat less certain.

This report is the first piece of research to examine the interlinkages between risks associated with youthful demographic profiles and climate impacts. It was shaped by meeting the communication needs of launching UNICEF’s campaign on long-term threats to youth, and so devotes attention to overviews of the basic connections between climate change, demographic factors and security. Within these broad associations, it identifies key dynamics where youth and climate may interact to drive fragility, and policy interventions that might minimize risk. However, it is limited in terms of providing more specific regional- or national-level recommendations. It provides a starting point for understanding these associations but acknowledges the need for further detailed exploration. 

In sum, the report finds that the combination of climate change and large youth cohorts within challenging social conditions is problematic. Because economic and social marginalisation is a key part of the problem, inclusivity is a fundamental part of the long-term solution. Governments need to know and understand more about these linkages, to design policies that address the economic and political needs of youth and promote resilience to climate impacts.

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Briefing Note No. 6 > October 2014

Climate Change and Development in Africa IVth conference

1. Background to the event

The Climate for Development in Africa Programme (ClimDev-Africa) organised the fourth annual conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa under the theme: Africa Can Feed Africa Now: Translating Climate Knowledge into Action. The conference was attended by a pan-African mix of participants from economics, science, agriculture and trade backgrounds. adelphi and the EUISS organised a side event to the conference with the theme: Understanding the linkages between climate change and fragility in Africa. These notes are based on discussions during the side event and conference sessions. 

2. Summary of findings

The African conference participants do not generally see climate change as a security issue, but as a development issue that can impact food and water security, agricultural production and economic development. It is seen as a secondary issue to the important ones such as jobs, basic needs and opportunities for growth. There is, however, openness for engagement with international partners on climate change, with a welcoming approach to expertise and funding from abroad and an interest in climate finance mechanisms. This openness differs from the more closed attitude toward engagement on security issues, raising the question as to whether security is a good entry point to engage on climate change with African leaders. 

The debate was peppered with tensions over trade-offs: investing in macro- vs. micro-solutions; openness to foreign investment vs. protection of local sovereignty (such as over land purchases); land for food vs. land for energy production; energy for poverty reduction vs. green energy; which disclosed uncertainty about approaches in responding to climate change. While climate change will affect food, water and energy supply, changes in demand were recognised as the biggest drivers of scarcity, especially considering African population growth and global interest in African resources. But increasing demand is the outcome of the growth model being followed to increase living standards. This unsettles discussion on climate change in Africa. When discussing policy responses, the need for better data collection, analysis and sharing was highlighted, along with improved risk management capacity.

3. Risk clusters

The climate change discourse was centred on drought, floods and food/water supply and framed in a development context. It is unclear which policy frameworks are needed. The following climate security risks were perceived to be most relevant:

Risk cluster 1: Livelihood security and local natural resource conflicts

  • Competition over, and potential mismanagement of, natural resources, particularly across borders. This is especially important where several different livelihood strategies overlap (e.g. pastoralism, fisheries, agriculture). 
  • Displacement and migration from affected areas. This could lead to conflict over limited resources, causing tensions between migrants and established populations. 
  • Poverty. The lack of roads, energy, clean water, health care, and access to markets in many areas is perceived as a key underlying challenge that may make populations more vulnerable to climate impacts.
  • Inadequate health care systems. Limited capacity to respond to chronic shocks and emerging outbreaks could be socially disruptive.
  • Loss of habitat. This could erode social capacity to cope with traditionally used non-forest products such as hardship foods and medicines.

Risk cluster 2: Weakening of governance institutions

  • Fire-fighting efforts to respond to climate impacts could divert resources from building on development gains. National budgets could also suffer, such as when droughts hurt agricultural exports, creating a vicious circle and exacerbating vulnerability.
  • Customary institutions and governance could weaken as traditional modes of agriculture and lifestyle are forced to change. This would be particularly problematic in many rural societies, potentially eroding adaptive capacity, fostering mismanagement and over-use of natural resources and nurturing resentment that could exacerbate conflict.
  • Capacity limitations in leadership and planning. National capacities to plan for an uncertain future are widely seen as hostage to a lack of confidence in finding and acting upon local solutions. This is seen in the failure to create pan-African markets, supported by necessary infrastructure that can aid development and resilience.

Risk cluster 3: International connections

  • Following poor models. Climate risks and best practices for building adaptive capacity are not communicated consistently by global organisations. This may lead to replication of unsustainable development models, creating more risks. Climate change should be viewed as an overarching threat rather than as a niche issue.
  • Migration to Europe is discussed as a daily reality but is not seen as a threat to Africa.
  • Temporary top-down aid. International relief organizations providing short term aid, designed from the top down, are a serious risk to local capacities for planning development and adapting to climate change.

4. Further observations

Framing climate change: In many countries, climate change is a stand-alone issue. There is declared intent to mainstream it into different sectors or ministries but it has low priority and is surrounded by some confusion: decision makers are faced with different frameworks and approaches and are cautioned about the uncertainty of predictions on which they should base their decisions. In order for climate action to occur, climate change and disaster reduction must be anchored at the appropriate institutional level to trigger forward looking planning and become part of the “every day business” of staff i.e. creating a habit of climate proofing sectoral plans and budgets. Existing sustainable development policies should be strengthened to handle the range of climate risks rather than replaced with a new policy framework.

Financing climate action: The capacity of governments to mobilize resources is being driven, to some extent, by efforts to respond to the impacts of climate change – climate change is already eroding development gains. Climate funds are seen as too diverse and complex to be accessible and useful for too many African actors. Resources to apply for and implement projects from these funds could be diverted from other development issues. Therefore, the tackling of development deficits is a prerequisite for a climate resilient future.

Managing climate risks: There is recognition that climate change creates risks to development and that shocks are likely to occur more often. Some components of early warning systems are beginning to be reasonably well developed, but the extent to which they trigger early action is minimal. This is partly due to a lack of analysis and buy-in at the local level with multiple stakeholders and a lack of finance for locally developed actions. The majority of internationally financed actions are about crisis response instead of risk management. Actions should support improving adaptive capacity, reducing the vulnerability of populations at risk and supporting local populations in monitoring the situation. 

Localising processes: National capacities to analyse and strategize need to be built to find solutions to long term problems that national sectoral institutions do not have time to look at. Coupling territorial approaches (spatial analysis), with temporal approaches (monitoring risks and future trends) at local, national and international levels would provide a means to bring sectors together under one integrated framework in common problem recognition and analysis. This would help with finding solutions that are locally anchored and nationally driven. 

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Briefing Note No. 5 > December 2014

Global Climate Risk Index 2015: Who suffers most from extreme weather events? Weather-related loss events in 2013 and 1994 to 2013


In the 20 year period 1994 through 2013, over 500,000 people died in over 15,000 natural disasters. On the occasion of COP20 in Lima, the Bonn-based NGO Germanwatch published its Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) 2015 to register these data and track patterns. The report presents statistics from the two-decade period and from 2013.

This is the CRI’s 10th edition. A team of five authors focuses on economic losses and fatalities and analyses the extent countries have been affected by weather-related loss events like storms, floods or heat waves. In 2013, the Philippines, Cambodia and India were the most affected countries. From 1994 to 2013, Honduras, Myanmar and Haiti rank highest.

The Climate Risk Index confirms the widely held view that climate risks generally affect less developed countries more than industrialised countries. The report aims to serve as an early warning resource by highlighting which vulnerable developing countries are frequently hit by extreme weather events. South East Asia is the region that has suffered most from extreme weather events during the last two decades. In some countries disasters are rare; low frequency, high impact events are a difficult challenge for risk management and readiness and poor countries will often sideline them. This can be illustrated by the case of Myanmar: Although the country ranks second, it is the country with the lowest total number of events between 1994 and 2013 among the ten most affected states.

The CRI is a register, an index and a source of information. It is not a policy analysis and, apart from encouraging action at the Lima COP and beyond on reducing GHG emissions and on making national adaptation plans effective, makes no specific recommendations. 

In detail

The Methodology: The CRI is based on some of the most reliable data sets available on the impacts of extreme weather events and associated socio-economic data. Insurance giant Munich Re has provided the core data for the index. The CRI is not a comprehensive assessment of climate vulnerability and the authors stress that past data cannot be used for a linear projection of future climate impact. The CRI indicates a level of exposure and vulnerability to extreme events today that can be understood as a warning to be prepared for more frequent and/or more severe events in the future. The data, however, only reflect direct impacts (direct losses and fatalities) of extreme weather events. The CRI does not include the indirect impact, such as food and water scarcity as a result of heat waves in African countries. 

The results of CRI 2013: The Philippines, Cambodia and India lead the list of the most affected countries, followed by Mexico, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Pakistan. 2013 was strongly marked by Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in November 2013 and was responsible for over US$ 13 billion in economic loss and 6,000 casualties. Haiyan was the strongest tropical cyclone on record to hit land. Mozambique also ranks among the top ten countries because of severe flooding that occurred in 2013 and temporarily displaced 140,000 people. The most severely affected region is South and Southeast Asia with 6 out of the top 10 countries.

The results 1994-2013: Honduras, Myanmar and Haiti were the countries affected most by extreme weather events between 1994 and 2013. These rankings can be traced back to the aftermath of exceptionally disastrous events such as Hurricane Mitch in Honduras (1998) and Hurricane Sandy in Haiti (2012). Similarly, Myanmar was struck hard by Cyclone Nargis in 2008, inflicting an estimated loss of 140,000 lives as well as property loss of approximately 2.4 million people. Myanmar was also the country with the largest death toll (annual average of 7,137 deaths, with 95% due to Cyclone Nargis) and Honduras had the highest loss per GDP (more than 3% mainly due Hurricane Mitch) in the respective time period. Accordingly, these countries only rank high due to exceptional catastrophes. Altogether, more than 530,000 people died as a direct result of approx. 15,000 extreme weather events, and losses between 1994 and 2013 amounted to nearly 2.2 trillion USD (in Purchasing Power Parities).

Economic status of most affected countries: Between 1994 and 2013, nine of the ten most affected countries were classified as developing countries in the low income or lower-middle income country group, while only one belonged to the group of upper-middle income countries. 

Regions at risk: Southeast Asian countries have been exposed to the highest number of events: the Philippines (328), Bangladesh (228), Vietnam (216) and Pakistan (141) have all experienced more than 100 events within two decades – significantly more than the other countries and regions. The Philippines stands out as it is struck by eight to nine typhoons per year on average and the victim of exceptional catastrophes, namely Typhoon Haiyan. A special chapter is dedicated to the diverse and severe situation in Latin America and Caribbean region which is mainly used to encourage a clear leadership role of the host of COP 20, Peru, and its partners in the region.

Impacts on other specific country groups (fragile states; industrialised countries): Some European countries are ranked in the top 30 countries due to the extraordinary number of fatalities in the 2003 heat wave. More than 70,000 people died across Europe. The report does not address fragility as such and does not analyse specific political risks associated with climate change and extreme weather events. Although Haiti and Pakistan are among the top ten of both lists, the results of the CRI do not indicate that countries most susceptible to extreme weather events are necessarily political instable. 

Contextualizing the Fifth IPCC Assessment Report (AR5): The authors reflect the results of the CRI against the backdrop of IPCC’s AR5, which projects increasing risks of extreme weather events as global mean temperature rises (increase in annual mean precipitation, increase in extreme precipitation events; increase in intensity and duration of monsoon precipitation among other trends). 

The political implications: The authors do not make detailed policy recommendations. They do emphasize that decision-makers in the COP20 processes and associated efforts should follow a strategic approach for long-term adaptation with flexible design and adequate funding. Apart from UNFCCC, the authors highlight the importance of the upcoming March 2015 meeting in Sendai, Japan, to decide on the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction (building on the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA)). 

International media coverage of the CRI 2015 (by December 9, 2014)

Spiegel Online, “Klima-Risiko-Index: Wo Extremwetter am häufigsten zuschlägt”, December 2, 2014

El País CR, “Índice riesgo climático: fenómenos extremos afectan países más pobres”, December 4, 2014

Washington Post: “The countries that have been hit hardest by extreme weather”, December 5, 2014

Bloomberg: “Typhoon Slams Philippines, Threatens Recovery From Haiyan; Test for Aquino”, December 7, 2014

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Briefing Note No. 4 > September 2014

Jordan Country Risk Brief

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive risk assessment but a selection of results and analysis from International Alert’s field research and consultations.


Jordan remains one of the few stable countries in the Middle-East. Yet, the underlying economic issues that led to protests associated with the Arab Spring and the subsequent toppling of governments and autocratic regimes across the Middle-East and North Africa remain in place. However, Jordanians look north to Syria, southwest to Egypt and west to Iraq, and their experiences of brutal civil wars have tempered the desire for similar rapid change. In this sense, ‘Jordan is stable but in no way should be.’

Jordan faces multiple challenges that climate change will most likely exacerbate: 

  1. Water Scarcity - Jordan’s climate change adaptation priority is water scarcity. Jordan is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. Population growth, and extremely low water prices, encouraging wasteful consumption are threatening the availability of water resources. Groundwater wells are being exploited at unsustainable rates to meet the needs of both host and refugee communities. Jordan’s severe water scarcity is expected to be worsened by climate change. This is a major constraint on growth and development, as water is critical for productive sectors of the economy such as agriculture. By decreasing agricultural productivity, climate change may intensify food insecurity in Jordan. Climate change could potentially threaten the competition for scarce resources and further exacerbate issues over riparian rights between Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan. This in turn could render existing peace agreements untenable and complicate the negotiation of potential future agreements. 
  2. Energy Security - Energy security is a serious concern since Jordan’s energy resources are limited. Jordan relies on imports for a large share of its oil and gas from relatively few sources. One of the main sources of energy imports is the gas pipeline from Egypt, which has witnessed many interruptions over the past years. The key challenges facing Jordan are therefore to diversify the supply of its energy, develop renewable energy sources, and increase energy efficiency. Historically, Jordan has also faced challenges of balancing energy subsidy removals with rising living costs. In 2011 the issue led to public protests and pressured the Jordanian government to reverse some of its earlier steps of reform and curb further fuel price rises. At present, the IMF is advocating for Jordan to remove subsidies on energy though recognizing the risks of civil disturbance should the cuts be significant. 
  3. Humanitarian Responses to the Syrian Refugee Situation - With the ongoing civil conflict in Syria, Jordan has opened its borders to Syrian refugees and is now host to more than 600,000 refugees, who have either attempted to live in the urban areas of Jordan or have been hosted in refugee camps, Zaatari and Azraq, in the northern part of the country. For the Jordanian government, hosting Syrian refugees is putting a strain on government services, the economy and the country’s scarce water resources. Tensions exist between host and refugee populations over a range of issue including water, food, jobs, livelihood, healthcare, education, and housing.

Risk clusters: Links between climate change, fragility and security

  1. Livelihood security and natural resources: Water Scarcity, Climate Change and Agriculture
    Water security is a major livelihood challenge for Jordan’s farmers. Highly variable seasonal rainfall is the main source of water in Jordan. Approximately 5 per cent of rainwater infiltrates into the ground and replenishes groundwater aquifers. Given Jordan’s water security challenges from conventional water resources such as rainfall, groundwater, rivers and streams, Jordan is also making efforts to use treated wastewater and desalinated water. 

    The water sector in the Middle-East is projected to become severely affected by climate change from lower precipitation, further reducing water availability from higher temperatures and from increasing variability. The physical basis for climate change in Jordan is similarly downward precipitation, intense weather events and upward temperature trends. On the issue of precipitation, most climate models for Jordan indicate that while overall precipitation will decline, it will stay within the mean. The implication is that there will be no change to run-off collection in dams, but distribution of run-off due to poor infrastructure will emerge as a challenge. At present, the main drivers of water scarcity in Jordan stem from population pressures, both from natural birth and increasing numbers of refugee populations, poor water infrastructure, economic development and inefficient agricultural practices.
    Poor water infrastructure and management is an important area for reform in Jordan, with the government recognising that Jordan loses, on average, 40 per cent of water pumped into its networks. It is estimated that 80 per cent of this lost water is, in fact, stolen. The situation therefore mandates better water management systems and the need to resolve the situation of water theft before desalinated water is pumped into the same networks.

    Water shortage will have a particularly devastating impact on the rural poor, whose primary income is from water-dependent agriculture. Agriculture accounts for approximately 60 per cent of Jordan’s water use though a high proportion of the water used is on low value crops. The biggest challenge is water efficiency and water quality for agricultural production, including productive utilization of grey water. Jordan also needs to scrutinize what agricultural goods are being exported, as this often is a cheap way of exporting water out of the country. Equally, Jordan imports more than 70 per cent of its food, and so there is also a need to look at how water is used more effectively to reduce food
  2. Governance and state institutions: Political Stability, Subsidies and Energy Import Dependence
    Jordan faces substantial fiscal challenges, with the budget deficit 6.8 per cent of GDP (EBRD). In 2011, the government responded to popular protests by increasing social spending (fuel subsidies and wages) and cutting taxes. Subsidies almost tripled in 2011 to US$1.3 billion. The bulk of the subsidies were for the energy sector, with energy subsidies jumping from 1.3 per cent of GDP in 2010 to over 6 per cent in 2011 (EBRD). As a result Jordan accumulated substantial domestic and foreign debt. Subsequent decrease in fuel and electricity subsidies as well as planned reductions in subsidies towards the second half of 2012, led to increases in inflation. However, events of the Arab Spring led the government to increase subsidies, public sector wages and social expenditures. At present, the IMF is advocating for Jordan to remove subsidies on water and energy though recognising the risks of civil disturbance should the cuts be significant. Parliament itself is under pressures to resist additional cuts to subsidies for fear of social unrest.

    Closely linked to the issue of subsidies is the issue of energy security. The government recognizes the need to reduce energy import dependence as one of its priorities. Jordan’s faces high energy import bills and the frequent power cuts resulting from shortfalls in supplies particularly from Egypt that has imposed cuts in supplies in recent years. As resources are strained in Egypt, energy security is increasingly linked to water security. For example, huge amounts of energy are necessary to deliver clean and safe water, which includes pumping water through pipes, lifting groundwater from underground sources, and treating wastewater. With water scarcity increasing in Jordan, additional energy is required to pump water across longer distances or to produce water through alternative means, such as desalination.
  3. Humanitarian Responses to the Syrian Refugee Situation
    With the ongoing civil conflict in Syria, Jordan has opened its borders to Syrian refugees who have either attempted to live in the urban areas of Jordan or have been hosted in refugee camps, Zaatari and Azraq, in the northern part of the country. For the Jordanian government, hosting Syrian refugees is putting a strain on government services, the economy and the country’s scarce water resources. Tensions exist between host and refugee populations over a range of issue including water, food, jobs, livelihood, healthcare, education, and housing. There are perceptions, whether factual or not, that refugees are making life more expensive.

    The majority of refugees in Jordan are residing in host communities dispersed across the country. Those living in urban areas in Jordan are struggling to cope with inadequate housing, lack of access to employment opportunities, high debts, rising living costs and limited educational prospects for their children. The influx of Syrian refugees is also impacting Jordanian host communities, who are often faced with similar challenges such as increased accommodation and living costs, and limited access to strained public services.

    Opportunities for Syrian refugees to work are limited as the government is concerned with the implications of providing economic and livelihood opportunities to the refugees. There is a zero tolerance policy on paper, which is, in part, responding to the perceptions of host populations. Being banned from working, some Syrians take up black market jobs for low wages. This is creating a situation where pay for Jordanians is being pushed down too. 

    Tensions also exist between Syrians and Jordanians over the issue of water. Both the Syrian refugee camps, Zaatari and Azraq, have been built on ground water reserves. In the case of Zaatari, 40 per cent of the camp’s water needs are serviced by these groundwater reserves. Consumption of water in the Zaatari camp is roughly 5000 cubic metres per day, which is currently being financed by donors. NGOs ensure that the water needs of the camps are met by financing and paying higher rates for water than locals, creating tensions between host and refugee communities. 

Priorities for Action: Recommendations

Recommendations for G7 foreign policy makers

  1. Addressing the refugee issue in Jordan is a keystone for keeping order in the region and therefore deserves more attention from the international community and more support. For example, on the situation of Syrian refugees, Jordan receives only 30 per cent of the real cost of hosting the refugees.
  2. Support for both Jordanians and refugees is vital. Jordanians from low income groups and those that come from poorer regions of the country should also receive, as much if not more, assistance and resources as the refugees. With the refugee situation, poor Jordanians particularly feel they are losing out. Tensions exist between Jordanians and refugee populations over water, food, jobs, livelihood, healthcare, education, housing etc. Perceptions exist that refugees are making life more expensive. The refugee camps (Zaatari and Azraq) are built on ground water reserves, in a context where the rest of the country face water rationing. There is a perception among Jordanians that donors have limited understand of the difficulties faced by implementing agencies, particularly humanitarian organizations, when they require 70 per cent funds to go to refugees and only 30 per cent to host communities. The international community needs to therefore have a better sense of the conflict context in the region and the potential threats to peace that exist in Jordan. 
  3. Creating incentives for private sector to address water security issues - There is a need to change incentives to draw in the private sector to help address water scarcity challenges in the country. Water distribution is inefficient, the tariff system encourages waste. For efforts to address water scarcity issues through strategies such as desalinisation, which involves heavy financial investments, involving the private sector to provide financing and ensure transparency and efficiency in water distribution processes, could help address some of the challenges of finding alternative water sources and ensuring better water management. 
  4. The G7 should see Jordan as more of a developing country than a developed one and provide mentoring and technical capacity support. For instance, there is a need for more sophisticated technologies that enable more efficient usage of water. Jordan’s neighbours such as Israel have better technologies (desalinisation, irrigation, rainwater harvesting for example). G7 can support with resourcing of these but also by providing technical capacity support e.g. capacity building for engineers.
  5. To ensure policies and interventions are relevant to the context and the needs of communities, donors should make sure the government is cooperating with civil society and that there are bottom-up consultative processes

National or regional recommendations/priorities

  1. Regional stability: ending the war in Gaza - Jordan is perceived as a “buffer state” between Israel and its regional adversaries, between the Sunni Gulf States and the “Shi’a Crescent,” and as a receptive host to waves of refugees amid regional turmoil, including Palestinians, Iraqis and now Syrians. 60 per cent of Jordanians are of Palestinian origin which means that the situation in Gaza has significant political repercussions for Jordan. 
  2. Regional stability: restricting the spillover threat of IS - The civil wars and associated state weakness in two of Jordan’s immediate neighbors Syria and Iraq presents new challenges for Jordan including the possibility of expansion of IS into a potential safe haven in a third country should they be overpowered in Syria and Iraq as well as internal developments of associated insurgency. 
  3. Regional water cooperation is integral for Jordan’s stability and security given the transboundary nature of Jordan’s main water sources. Climate change, as a shared threat, and as an issue beyond the capacity of a single country to deal with can incentivize and encourage countries to work together. However, given the current political landscape in the Middle-East, climate change as one factor in the changing availability of water resources available to Jordan and its neighbours, is likely to present an obstacle to peace, and necessitates regional cooperation. 

Thematic recommendations/priorities

Direct support to agriculture – In Jordan, where a hotter and drier future is inevitable and where water scarcity continues to remain a significant threat, the government will need to respond decisively and effectively to droughts, become more successful at promoting better water management policies and practices and necessarily have to reform some of its agricultural policies that allow for water to be cheaply exported out of the country through the export of low value crops. Jordan receives almost no external funds or support for agriculture reform. However, supporting agriculture reform is a priority, given the importance of agriculture to food security as well as the implications of agricultural practices on water security of the country, and should be reflected as such in donor assistance to the country. Failure to reform agricultural practices that are water-intensive will lead to risks to food security and may exacerbate the already volatile socio-political conditions in the country and contribute to domestic and/or regional political instability.

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Briefing Note No. 3 > October 2014

2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap


A series of executive orders signed by President Obama since his first year in office requires all federal agencies to begin planning for climate change and produce an updated adaptation plan by May of this year. On October 13, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel released the Pentagon’s second-ever climate roadmap.

“Climate change will affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the Nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security,” the new roadmap says. And accordingly it focuses on adaptation to that impact.

“These climate-related effects are already being observed at installa-tions throughout the U.S. and over-seas and affect many of the De-partment’s activities and decisions related to future operating environ-ments, military readiness, station-ing, environmental compliance and stewardship, and infrastructure planning and maintenance.”

-- Climate Roadmap 2014

The U.S. military is one of the largest emitters of green-house gases in the world, thanks to its immense fuel and energy consumption, but plans to scale back and increase efficiency are reserved for its annual Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan.

The 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap is the latest manifestation of institutionalizing climate change considerations across all dimensions of the department, a process that began in earnest with the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review.

In detail: A Three-Point Plan

The military’s adaptation goals are three-fold:

  1. To identify and assess the effects of climate change on the Department now and in the future;
  2. To integrate consideration of climate change into decisions at every level; and
  3. To maximize collaboration on expected challenges, both internally and externally.

Each section of the roadmap provides a progress report on these goals and a more detailed agenda for what still needs to be done. The Pentagon’s environmental science and technology program SERDP completed an assessment last year on the vulnerability of the Department’s coastal infrastructure, noting many of the steps needed to adapt to rising seas will be less costly now than in the future. A new “screening level” survey assessment tool, developed by SERDP, was deployed this year to assess other installations.

The military is concerned about readiness issues, like the increasing number of “black flag” days, when the wet-bulb globe temperature – a composite of air temperature, humidity, wind chill, and sunlight – is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and outdoor training is suspended. Research currently under way includes examining how “increased temperature trends and changes in the fire regime in the interior of Alaska will impact the dynamics of thawing permafrost and the subsequent effects on hydrology, access to training lands, and infrastructure; and changes in storm patterns and sea levels will impact the Department’s Pacific Island installations, including their water supplies.”

How climate change will affect state stability remains a concern, expressed in the “threat multiplier language utilized in U.S. climate and security discussions dating back to 2007. 

“The impacts of climate change may cause instability in other countries by impairing access to food and water, damaging infrastructure, spreading disease, uprooting and displacing large numbers of people, compelling mass migration, interrupting commercial activity, or restricting electricity availability. These developments could undermine already-fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively or challenge currently stable governments, as well as increase competition and tension between countries vying for limited resources. These gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism.” 

(Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap 2014, 4)

The likelihood of increased demand for emergency and humanitarian response is again flagged as a prominent implication for procurement, missions, and roles for the military.  

Climate Everywhere

“Adaptation to climate change,” the authors write, “cannot be a separate decision-making process, but rather integrated into the Department’s existing management processes.” The Department has identified 58 directives, policies, manuals, and guidance documents that do not incorporate climate change but should.

Since the last roadmap, several new mandates have been established that require including consideration of changing climate conditions when building new structures. The authors report there have been scattered individual efforts to harden existing facilities. Besides incorporating climate change into every relevant point along the military’s massive decision-making tree, the roadmap outlines ways the Pentagon and its Senior Sustainability Council, which is in charge of coordinating the roadmap, are looking to work with other federal agencies, environmental stewardship organizations, and foreign militaries.

Such military-to-military cooperation around climate change – which Secretary Hagel highlighted in his October 13 speech at the Council of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Peru – would build on the Department’s 20+ year track record of efforts to build cooperation around environmental issues and disasters, and provide an avenue for potentially addressing climate’s destabilizing effects on fragile states.

Ensuring supply and acquisition lines are not interrupted, continuing to train effectively, and adapting to new infrastructure and operational environments will all be more difficult without collaboration. The Arctic is flagged as a key example: Smaller and thinner seasonal sea ice is changing transportation routes and resource exploitation possibilities, requiring the Navy and Coast Guard to adapt to operate more extensively in the changing environment, as well as work with other Arctic states and key countries (China and India, for example, which joined the Arctic Council last year).

Public media coverage of the roadmap release

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Briefing Note No. 2 > May 2014

National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change”


This 29-page report by the Military Advisory Board of CNA Corporation, addresses the national security implications of climate change for the United States. It is an update of a 2007 CNA report, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change” that was key in generating policy attention in the Washington policy context at that time. CNA reports receive particular attention in the U.S. context given their direct involvement of senior retired flag officers from the U.S. military. The report describes how increased scientific certainty about climate change and its impacts dictate that the US government and its military need to take action today to prepare for the risks that climate change poses. The authors discuss both the domestic and international aspects of climate change and argue that climate change impacts are already serving as catalysts for conflict in vulnerable regions. The report provides six recommendations for protecting the military, economic and infrastructure aspects of America’s “National Power” and ensuring readiness and resilience for the country’s military forces.


In detail

The report begins with a discussion of increasing confidence in understanding the causes and projected impacts of climate change since the previous CNA report was issued in 2007. Climate change impacts are described as not merely future worries but moving firmly into the present, as evidenced by changes to fire seasons, sea levels, Arctic sea ice, and precipitation patterns. The risks associated with climate change are described as “comprehensive and accelerating”. Despite this improved understanding, the authors judge that actions by the USA and the international community have been insufficient in strengthening resilience to the projected impacts of climate change or finding ways to stabilize climate change.

The report notes that climate impacts such as droughts, flooding, and population dislocation are accelerating instability in vulnerable areas, including in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. These impacts are described as already being “catalysts for conflict”, a sharper and more urgent description than “threat multipliers”, as they were described in the 2007 report. In this context, the report calls for the US to improve its international cooperative efforts to build resilience and coordinate mitigation efforts. 

Throughout the report are quotations and “Voices of Experience” with anecdotes and commentary from US military leaders on climate science, changing geopolitics, the opening Arctic and other climate issues. These voices help build legitimacy and authority for the paper in the eyes of the target audience of US foreign policymakers.


Evolving international implications

The authors describe an increasingly complex international security environment with significant population growth, especially in coastal and urban areas, the continued rise of non-state actors, and risks to the continued development of emerging economies. The report emphasizes that the distribution of finite resources, notably those connected to the water-food-energy nexus, among a richer and more demanding global population will have increasing security implications. The impact of interrelated and cascading climate events on this security environment can contribute to the disruption of a primary security goal: stability. Two regions were highlighted. The first was Asia, where the USA is changing its security posture and where climate related challenges such as water-related challenges and sea level rise may contribute to instability. The second was the Arctic, where accelerating melting is expected to open the region to more traffic and economic activity. The likelihood of Arctic conflict is described as low, but the situation is expected to be complex and uncertain due to incomplete international frameworks (notably the non-ratification of UNCLOS by the USA) and a split in US defense command responsibility for the region. The authors call for the US to strengthen international partnerships and to guard against a “failure of imagination” in handling climate impacts and responses.


Domestic Implications of Climate Change

The next section of the report argues that climate change impacts will place elements of America’s “National Power” (political, military, social, infrastructure, and information systems) at risk and threaten homeland security. The authors describe how the armed forces may be expected to be busier with disaster response work – Defense Support to Civilian Authorities (DSCA) – potentially reducing their availability for other missions. Training programs may also be impacted by increased frequency of extreme weather events. The report describes how military infrastructure, logistics systems and supporting communities will need to improve resilience to climate change impacts, particularly since so much military infrastructure is concentrated in coastal regions (e.g. the Hampton Roads area).

Beyond the military, the report highlights how climate change impacts such as increased frequency of flooding, droughts and natural disasters threaten other aspects of US National Power. These include threats to national infrastructure, for which the Department of Homeland Security takes the lead on managing risks, threats to the US economy, and threats to social support systems, especially for vulnerable groups and specific vulnerable areas, such as floodplains and coasts. The report notes the need to integrate military efforts with those of federal, state, and local agencies.



The authors urge the US administration and Congress to take climate issues into consideration, using a long term perspective and a cooperative focus, particularly in a time of constrained military budgets. The report makes six recommendations for US policymakers: 

  1. Assume global leadership in preparing for projected climate change impacts (and, though less emphasized, in leading efforts to help slow climate change);
  2. Factor projected climate change impacts into military planning and operations;
  3. Prepare for increased access and military operations in the Arctic;
  4. Take into consideration the water-food-energy nexus;
  5. Projected impacts of climate change should be factored into the National Infrastructure Assessment Plan and the Strategic National Risk Assessment;
  6. The Department of Defense should develop adaptation plans, with a particular focus on defense facilities and associated community infrastructure.


Additional links

  • Highlight video of the report launch: 
  • Webcast of the report launch: 
  • Written summary of the launch event with key quotes: 
  • Video interview with Geoff Dabelko (Ohio University) about the report: 
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Briefing Note No. 1 > May 2014

Climate Change and EU Security Policy: An Unmet Challenge


This 19-page report published by Carnegie Europe assesses the role that climate change plays in EU security policy. Summarizing developments at the level of the Union and its member states, it argues that agenda-setting regarding ‘climate security’ is well advanced, but the translation of concept papers into tangible policy outputs is trailing behind. The report analyses the state of European policy on four challenges – climate-induced fragility, changing migration patterns, military engagement, and the geo-economics of climate change – and concludes that policy instruments need to be further developed to match the scale of the likely challenges ahead. Youngs argues that the EU needs to pursue deeper international cooperation to tackle the fundamental challenges ahead, and makes six broad recommendations (see below).

In detail

The report starts off with a quick overview of key themes and recommendations for EU policymakers. The introduction subsequently contrasts the ‘plethora of policy documents’ with the lack of strategy and coherent policy as well as the risk that short-term crises may crowd out climate security challenges. What follows is a detailed overview on the mainstreaming of climate security issues into European foreign policy documents. It demonstrates that the need to address climate security has been recognized at both the EU and member state level. 

A subsequent section details how the implementation of EU climate security policy has focused on producing statements, commissioning studies and offering training for policy officials – in short on raising awareness rather than tangible policy outputs. It notes the lack of leadership on, and effective integration of climate security into foreign policy making. Youngs specifically criticizes that energy security is still conceived of in terms of securing fossil fuel supplies, and that the European Commission focuses on replicating internal market rules (light bulbs etc.) abroad rather than developing a true climate security policy.

Specific challenges

After this general assessment, the report looks at four challenges – climate-induced fragility, changing migration patterns, military engagement, and the geo-economics of climate change. With respect to fragility, it argues that climate change has insufficiently informed conflict prevention policies (with the 2011 Gothenburg program update failing to even mention climate factors). The report mentions EU efforts in the EU neighbourhood and the Sahel as positive examples but concludes that overall, policy adaptation is embryonic. Youngs criticizes the EU’s focus on disaster response rather than disaster preparedness and details its mixed record in mainstreaming climate adaptation into development and security policies and vice-versa. The section on migration criticizes the lack of a forward-looking strategy to address climate-induced migration. Whereas the EU emphasizes that climate change will likely trigger intraregional migration rather than mass migration to Europe, it has hardly started to prepare for the former, whether in terms of impact assessment or aid programming. 

The subsequent section on military engagement concludes that EU armed forces have so far primarily focused on the relatively narrow issues of disaster response and greening military operations. In that respect, EU militaries lag behind the U.S. military’s engagement, and there is hence insufficient evidence for the sometimes dreaded militarization of EU climate security policies. In the final section on the geo-economics of climate change, Youngs sees the EU as seeking to strike a balance between interdependence based on free markets and autarky. Evidence for the latter is derived from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (and its impact on food insecurity abroad), mercantilism in the realm of renewables policies, and commercial diplomacy focused on securing access to scarce resources. 


A final section considers the fundamental tenets of EU strategy, whether climate change will propel the world towards deeper, positive-sum cooperation or towards isolationist self-protection. It urges European governments to come off the fence in support of the former, and to pursue a comprehensive climate foreign policy that recognizes the Union’s own role in contributing to some of the global threats it seeks to defend against. Thus, EU climate security policy should not be only about spending modestly higher amounts on various aspects of climate change, but needs to connect to an overall strategy for the global order the EU seeks to shape.

This appeal is loosely related to six recommendations for EU policymakers and member states formulated at the outset of the report: 

  1. to address climate changes through cooperation, not isolationism; 
  2. to integrate climate security into conflict prevention strategies;
  3. to adopt a forward-looking response to climate induced migration;
  4. to broaden militaries’ engagement with climate security;
  5. to develop a systematic approach to the geo-economics of climate change; 
  6. to incorporate climate concerns into all aspects of the Union’s foreign policies.
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