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An inside look at climate-sensitive peace programming

Community in Ecuador

With the next edition of our Climate Sensitive Programming for Sustaining Peace starting on the 9th of March, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on the lessons that we have learned from two years of delivering the course. It has been exciting to gain and share insights with practitioners from various UN agencies, funds, programmes and civil society organizations. We have had a unique opportunity to get an inside look into their experiences from different field programmes where they are responsible for mainstreaming climate security across the various stages of the project-life cycle.

So, what have we learned?

Focus on the people you serve

Since peace and security personnel design their projects in areas affected by climate change, it is important to consider the context in which they work and the communities they serve. The project design should start with an analysis of  the immediate livelihood needs of local communities, and an understanding of how climate change affects those needs vis-à vis  existing conflict triggers.  

After two years of speaking to hundreds of peace and security personnel on our course, we have learned that  understanding people’s immediate livelihood needs can serve as the perfect entry point into the communities they are working with. Beyond this, they need to think about how climate risks might affect peacebuilding outcomes in the community they work with.

I want you to imagine working in a context where  competition around natural resources are exacerbated  by climate change. What is your goal? How do you develop programmes that take climate risks into consideration? You focus on ensuring that peacebuilding programming contributes to fostering joint community efforts, and a shared understanding of the impacts of climate change. We explore this and more in the Climate Sensitive Programming for Sustaining Peace course.

Inclusivity is key

It is important to develop a theory of change that fosters inclusivity at the local as well as national and regional level. Taking care of urgent demands is crucial, but from there it needs a well-developed theory of change and an inclusive approach to reduce the chances of new conflicts erupting in the future. Various groups (ethnic , youth , rural ,urban)will have different needs. To create the best chances for long-lasting peace, every group needs to be heard and has to get their fair share of the project outcome.  

Put gender issues at the center of all that you do

Climate change affects both men and women differently. Your theory of change will therefore need to address these differences. As an example, women do not have land ownership everywhere and often stay behind when men migrate to other areas in search for new work opportunities. While men are often victims of violent attacks as they travel, women are left with the responsibility of taking care of the homestead and navigating the families’ home situation. This is often without having many rights or future prospects for themselves. Why is it important to consider the role of gender in your peace programming initiatives?

We have come to learn that the challenges that women face can be seen as an opportunity to further integrate women into resource management mechanisms. This is because  most communities accept women’s participation in natural resource matters more easily than in other areas. From there, their participation can be extended to other areas like conflict prevention. By better understanding how gender may affect climate change vulnerability and  sustaining peace efforts, peace and security personnel  can embark on initiatives that  promote gender-based activism and foster climate change resilience in conflict affected areas

Data is king

New technologies and data analytics are an effective analysis tool for understanding climate risks and triggers for early warning and prevention initiatives. If we look for example at transhumance, we know that climate impacts have an effect on moving populations. They might force pastoralists to move at unexpected times, and into areas where communities do not expect them. These issues can lead to conflict between moving pastoralists and sedentary farmers whose crops might be damaged by herds of cattle.

Successful projects combine data on conflict dynamics and climate change factors to provide the best possible early warning systems. For example, one could combine data on droughts and water scarcity, which will impact the pastoralists’ migrating speed and direction with data on farmers location and the status of their crops. When conflict is likely to erupt, a prevention mechanism can be started based on the data at hand.

Learn more

I hope we sparked your interest in climate sensitive programming! If you are interested in learning more, I invite you to sign up for the upcoming Climate Sensitive Programming for Sustaining Peace which starts on the 9th of March. It is an exciting learning journey where peace and security personnel learn different methodologies, techniques and tools to analyze climate-related security risks.


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