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UN steps up response to climate-related security risks

The United Nations is stepping up efforts to address climate-related security risks amid growing recognition of the role of climate change in exacerbating the risk of conflicts.

António Guterres  UN steps up response to climate-related security risks Ant  nio Guterres
UN chief António Guterres in Tuvalu. Photo credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

new report by the United Nations University (UNU) Centre for Policy Research aims to support both the UN and its partners in developing climate-sensitive approaches to preventing conflict.

Climate-related changes in water resources, food security, sea-level rise and flood risks and migration patterns are already impacting the stability of many states to cope.

With warnings of impending “climate wars,” driven by a dramatic shortfall in key resources as the world overheats, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has explicitly placed climate change as a central aspect of the UN’s prevention agenda, as have key member states.

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The United Nations has introduced a set of measures recently to make the organization better positioned to prevent conflict. They include improved planning and coordination with other actors, as well as the creation of a Climate-Security Mechanism spanning three UN entities, with a small but dedicated set of capacities to help improve the analysis of, and response to, climate-related security risks in the UN system.

The new UNU Centre for Policy Research report offers: 1) a literature review covering the major scholarship on the links between climate change and violent conflict; 2) in-depth case studies on climate-security dynamics in Bangladesh and Nigeria; and 3) cross-cutting conclusions and recommendations for the UN system.

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The main recommendations of the new report include building up foresight capacities, analysing direct impacts, adopting cross-border responses and prioritising climate security in the broader climate discussion.

The main cross-cutting recommendations are as follows: Analyse indirect impacts;Focus on governance, not just scarcity; Build up foresight capacities; Look for maladaptation and inequality; Adopt multi-scalar, cross-border responses; Build a common language for climate-security; Prioritise and bring climate-security into the broader climate discussion; and, Strengthen knowledge management and build an evidence base.

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