Covid, conflict, climate – and our crying need to be more resilient

Covid-19 has implications not only for health, well-being and prosperity but also for security and peace. The impact of the virus on war torn societies could be devastating, whether the scene is of massive physical destruction as in Syria, or the rampaging power of militias, jihadi groups and criminal gangs as in parts of the Sahel and Horn of Africa. Ramping up the humanitarian response, even though the big humanitarian headquarters are themselves part of the general lockdown, is one necessity. The UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire is a second one – though whether the call will be heeded, heaven knows. Beyond that the Covid-19 virus has revealed a worrying and widespread lack of social and political resilience. Continue reading

Somalia – a difficult climate for peacebuilding

Somalia is showing encouraging signs of emerging from three decades of chaos and mayhem that themselves followed two decades of dictatorship and one of civil war. Problems abound still and there are over 5 million people in the country who need humanitarian assistance and well over 2 million displaced people. As well as trying to win territory back from the al-Shabab terrorists, the government and its regional and international supporters have to meet people’s basic needs, develop the economy and establish some kind of political normalcy with critically elections planned for this year.

Exerting pressure on all this and making it harder is climate change and an average of one natural disaster a year for the last 30 years ( 12 serious droughts and 18 major floods). SIPRI published a report in late 2019 – Climate-related security risks and peacebuilding in Somalia by Florian Krampe and Karolina Eklöw – and the Belgian Presidency of the UN Security Council invited me to brief the Council about the issues on 24 February as part of their session on the situation in the country.

What follows – in perhaps a somewhat more formal tone than readers of this blog are generally used to – is what I said in my briefing.

Screenshot 2020-02-25 at 03.43.01

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Nine items of evidence for optimism

It’s that time of year, right? In fact, that time of the decade – the cusp between one and the next. From the teens to the twenties. So it’s time for my review of the last (what went wrong) and a forward perspective over what’s coming (trends to watch). Except, no.

Recently I asked a group of eminent and wise people for reasons for optimism. There is these days a bias towards pessimism that is simultaneously understandable, debilitating and tedious. I wanted to push back and get eminent wise help in doing so.

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Climate change, human rights and security

The UN’s Climate Action Summit is an effort to raise the global level of ambition to address the deepening climate crisis by encouraging governments to go further in reducing carbon emissions and in providing finance to meet the challenges. It is altogether welcome. But it is striking that the preparation for the summit and the key messages going into and coming out of it have maintained a steadfast silence about the issue of security. Continue reading

SIPRI Yearbook 2019: Nuclear weapons and other key trends

The SIPRI Yearbook 2019 is now available on line. It registers key data in the world of peace and security in 2018 and establishes some of the basic indicators that let us track and assess the trends. It is not a comfortable picture.

You can get a quick take on it from my shorthand overview below and/or from the latest short film in our Peace Points series.

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The heat and its implications

Around the world, a series of new “hottest ever” local records have been set. Africa has experienced what is probably its hottest ever daily temperature. The world’s highest “daily minimum” temperature (i.e., the lowest temperature in that 24-hour period) has been recorded – over 42°C in Oman, for those of you trying to handle a modest mid-30s of an afternoon by the Med. Northern Arctic sea ice is breaking up for the first time on record. What are the trends and what are the implications for peace and security? Continue reading

Climate change and security: here’s the analysis, when’s the action?

Last week’s communiqué from the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Lübeck included a statement on climate change and security. In welcoming a report, A New Climate for Peace, to which my organisation International Alert contributed, the communiqué moves the issue forward and declares it to be worthy of high level political attention. Unfortunately, what is to be done is not so clear. Continue reading

Climate, community, conflict & resilience

For the past two and half years, International Alert has been conducting field research in four South Asian countries on vulnerability to the effects of climate change, possibilities for adaptation, obstacles and how to overcome them. What shines out of these studies is the need for policies that integrate responses to climate and conflict challenges into developing a broadly based quality of resilience – in local communities and on the national stage. Continue reading

Climate change, resilience and peace

International Alert convenes an expert roundtable, Building resilience – building peace, in Kathmandu on Monday 8 July. It’s the culmination of two and half years of research on the impact of climate change on local communities in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. I can’t be there so we recorded four minutes to camera as my contribution to the day’s events.

My brief comments emphasise the importance of thinking about the impact of climate change on four critical system – supply of water, food security, energy availability and supply natural resources supply. Responding to the challenge of climate change is about building resilience in those systems on which people everywhere depend.