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West Africa is widely cited as a hotspot of climate change and insecurity. This SIPRI Insights uses a systematic literature review of academic research to build a better understanding of the relationship between climate change and violent conflict in the region. Its findings are structured around four established ‘pathways’ of climate insecurity: (a) worsening livelihood conditions; (b) increasing migration and changing pastoral mobility patterns; (c) tactical considerations by armed groups; and (d) elite exploitation of local grievances.
The literature review highlights a number of important variables in the relationship between climate change and violent conflict in West Africa: maladaptation to livelihood insecurity; migration away from climate-exposed areas; escalating farmer–herder conflicts; and sometimes weak, sometimes divisive, sometimes exploitative governance. Despite these findings, the literature review reveals current research and policy discussions on climate change and violent conflict in West Africa are informed by a very limited amount of academic research.
II. Climate change, vulnerability and insecurity in West Africa
III. Pathways of climate insecurity
IV. Implications for research and policymaking