Ahead of the African Union (AU) Summit holding from February 10 to 11, 2019, researchers at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) have released a new essay that gives impetus for the AU to refocus on climate-related security risks and build a broad support to appoint a dedicated AU Special Envoy for Climate Change and Security.
The 32nd Summit of Heads of State of the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has “Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa.” And observers opine that the AU aims at increasing attention to the root causes of forced displacement and bolster the capacity of AU Member States to tackle the problem and create sustainable strategies.
As SIPRI researchers point out in the essay, migration and forced displacement are only symptoms of broader social, political, economic and ecological “push” and “pull” factors.
“‘Especially in Africa, climate-related change is one of the most serious push factors,” says Dr. Florian Krampe, adding: “To address the push from climate impacts, there is a need to not only better comprehend but, to better respond to climate-related security risks.”
The AU is said to be critical in showcasing leadership and developing adequate responses to climate-related security risks.
Vane Aminga argues: “The responses will require an integrated approach that combines knowledge on climate risks and the social and political realities of the regions.”
As the SIPRI essay shows, despite rhetorical steps and statements – including the proposal of a Special Envoy for Climate and Security in May 2018 – the AU lacks a tangible policy framework that lays out specific actions on how to respond to climate security within the its peace and security framework.
Being the most vulnerable continent to climate change – inextricably linked to the continent’s peace and security – Africa is said to be in need of a clear climate security strategy and strategic leadership, the SIPRI said. It adds that part of this should be the appointment of a Special Envoy to Climate Change and Security which could help widen the understanding of climate-related security risks within the AU.
“The idea of the Special Envoy is apt and an opportunity to pre-empt migration and forced displacement,” says Krampe. “Moreover, will is provide an opportunity to ‘climate-proof’ the AU’s peace and security architecture.”