- Armament and disarmament
- Conflict, peace and security
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Demand from peace operations for training on climate-related security risks has grown steadily and quickly over the past few years. Missions are experiencing first-hand the destabilizing, complicating effects of climate change on their work, and they want to know how to understand these effects and what to do about them.
Training on climate-related security risks aims to give missions a framework for understanding the relationship between climate change, peace and security. It is designed to help missions not only to protect the progress they have already made but also to leverage opportunities for synergy between peacebuilding and climate change responses. Ultimately this should make the communities that missions support more resilient to climate change and less likely to descend into conflict.
But the financial resources required to provide such training are limited. The UN Secretary-General’s New Agenda for Peace calls for the UN Security Council to ‘address the peace and security implications of climate change’ in countries on the Council’s agenda. This blog argues that training for peace missions on climate-related security could be critical to meeting the New Agenda’s call and necessary for missions to stay effective. As such, this training deserves increased funding.
Climate-related security risks are already a daily reality for several peace missions, which are dealing with the effects of increased flooding, water scarcity, changing mobility and migration patterns, and more. For example, during a training session on climate-related security risks, analysts from the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) described how tribal conflicts had broken out over scarce water resources during repeated droughts.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is also finding its work complicated by climate change impacts. In another recent training, UNMISS field staff reported how extreme flooding, which is happening more frequently due to climate change, had affected inter-community relations in the country. For example, many of the 595 000 people displaced by floods in 2022 were forced to live temporarily alongside communities with whom they had a history of tension and conflict. This created new civilian protection challenges and also meant the mission had to divert resources towards building dykes and other flood-protection work.
Furthermore, UNMISS’s Civil Affairs Division has had to facilitate conflict management and conflict resolution between migrating pastoralists and host communities who compete over scarce water resources and viable pasture. Stories like these confirm research findings on the relationship between climate change, peace and security in Somalia and South Sudan, and more broadly.
It is clear that the impacts of climate change are affecting the implementation of peace missions’ mandates and their day-to-day operations. However, according to studies of UNSOM and the former UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), it is less clear to mission personnel exactly how to address the resulting risks. Both MINUSMA and UNMISS requested dedicated training on climate-related security risks for their personnel through the Climate Security Mechanism, illustrating the fact that practitioners urgently want to know how to meet the growing challenges from climate change.
Feedback from mission personnel who have undergone training on climate-related security risks suggests that it is appreciated and valuable. There is also evidence that such training can catalyse further action. For example, since selected staff from the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) in Yemen participated in a training on climate-related security risks, both missions have taken follow-up action: UNAMI has held its own training for its field-based personnel in Basra, and UNMHA plans to write a policy paper on how climate change can affect landmine clearance after finding that flooding had moved mines back into already cleared areas.
Training on climate-related security risks is available from a growing number of organizations, both within and outside the UN system. Training content varies; some may be more general while others focus on a specific context. Training usually covers how the effects of climate change can impact peace and security and potential entry points for managing the related risks.
With the intensifying impacts of climate change, many peace missions are finding that the conditions in which they operate, and the work needed to fulfil their mandates, are changing rapidly—sometimes overnight. They need to understand what is happening, what might be around the corner, and how they can meet these unfamiliar challenges.
Training on climate-related security risks can play a critical role. Additionally, it can ensure that new insights and experiences from the field can be quickly brought to bear in other contexts. Funding should be made available so that peace operations can provide this training regularly for all personnel who need it.
Farah Hegazi has supported multiple trainings on climate-related security risks for practitioners, including courses delivered by the Climate Security Mechanism for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and by the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) for its own personnel.