Salma Kadry is a Climate, Peace, and Security Specialist working at the Alliance of Bioversity International & CIAT for the CGIAR’s FOCUS Climate Security initiative. Following her historic address at the United Nations Security Council on June 13, 2023, we asked Kadry to elaborate on the themes she discussed, especially in relation to how our research can support solutions within the climate, peace and security nexus.
By: Georgina Smith
What are the impacts of climate change on peace and security across Africa and the Arab region in your view, and how are they linked?
I come from Cairo, a very populous urban city in Egypt, and weather fluctuations are apparent every day. Just a couple of weeks ago, there were major sandstorms in different parts of Egypt including Cairo. The realities of climate change are becoming a lived experience for all of us. Yet what has become increasingly obvious, is a lack of preparedness and crisis response, which compromises the resilience of people to face these challenges. This is a bigger problem when we look at conflict-afflicted and fragile countries, many of which are among the most vulnerable to climate change, with less capacity to deal with and adapt.
Maybe the biggest threat posed by climate change in this region is the loss of livelihoods. In East Africa for instance, the majority of the population is dependent on farming or fisheries which are sectors that are highly vulnerable to climate impacts. A 280 million pastoralist population depends directly on natural resources. Moving to the Arab region, this is the most water-scarce area in the world and highly dependent on food imports and vulnerable to price fluctuation. Without food sovereignty or control over food production, the region is vulnerable to climate impacts and destabilizations to food systems in other parts of the world.
For example, the war in Ukraine has destabilized wheat exports to Egypt, which sources most of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, with knock-on impacts for food security. It is also important to put this in the larger context: loss of livelihood, destabilizing food and natural resources contribute to migration and scarcity competition. Many countries in Africa and the Arab region are dealing with multiple other development challenges: poverty, unemployment, socioeconomic inequality, governance issues, debt; the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ripple effects of the war. All of these challenges compromise the resilience capacity of governments and undermine the provision of basic goods and services, which might become a trigger for tensions.
How are CGIAR and the Alliance uniquely placed to respond to the challenges we face within this context, especially related to food production?
CGIAR and the Alliance aim to generate the evidence and the data about such risks and threats to push, shape and inform policies and actions to address them. We want to explore interactions between climate change, food, land and water systems, and how these overlap with peace and security risks. An important question is how climate threats converge into peace and security risks, to identify concrete action points and practical steps for policy makers so that they can respond effectively.
For example, the Climate Security Observatory is a support tool for decision makers. The digital dashboard is very user friendly, with country case studies across Africa and soon to add MENA region, to support policy makers by providing case studies across countries to identify climate security hotspots, identify the most vulnerable in those areas; analyze which groups are most vulnerable and exposed, to what kind of risks.
Another example is the Climate Security Sensitivity Tool, which provides a framework to assess conflict-sensitive factors or opportunities for peace and security that are integrated in the design of interventions, like providing livelihood security or women empowerment to strengthen resilience and mitigate risks. The framework is conflict-sensitive and peace-positive, focusing on how interventions can build resilient communities. In Somalia or Nigeria for example, competition over scarce resources or intercommunal tension between farmers and pastoralists may converge with issues of terrorism. We want to explore how land and water-related interventions can support peace, to build more resilient communities and respond to local needs.
How can indigenous communities, regional activists and advocacy networks around the world contribute to this work?
When we look at conflict or climate-impacted areas, it is the people who bear the brunt of the challenges. But what I have found fascinating is that people do step up – and are stepping up to adapt - despite all the challenges they face. For example, in Beirut (Lebanon) I discovered that electricity is only provided for two to three hours a day in some areas. Yet people have bought electricity generators and solar panels to deal with the challenge. They have become creative and organized a solution. I think it is critical that our tools, projects and mechanisms are people-centered, to support these local innovative efforts.
Local and indigenous communities, regional activists and advocacy network, have a bottom-up role to play in climate resilient peace, mobilizing local and regional networks to better understand risks for local livelihoods. We need to consider, for example, what major renewable energy projects mean for local and human development. Do they enhance opportunities for employment, health and education for local people, or are the benefits concentrated in hands of the few? How does the extraction of critical minerals for solar panels and electric batteries from some African countries contribute to resilience-building and local development? What does the European Green Deal mean for Africa; what are its development plans for local people?
As CGIAR, the Alliance, and the other international research centers, we must generate data and evidence to support local responses to climate related-challenges. In Jordan for example, we are exploring how humanitarian responses serve long-term resilience building within refugee communities. We need to think of local development strategies alongside national strategies, tapping local expertise and engaging organizations to understand local needs and priorities, in addition to opportunities for investment. The size of these challenges impacts everyone, and requires a collective response. The global community needs to recreate the tools and mechanisms at their disposal to properly deal with the climate challenge together.