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Resilience Needs to be New Compass for Foreign Policy to Create a New Climate for Peace

This is one of the key recommendations of the recent report commissioned by interested G7 Foreign Ministries and authored by an international research consortium from Germany, France, Great Britain and the USA, led by think tank adelphi. These recommendations also fed into the final communiqué of the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Lübeck on 14-15 April 2015.

Climate impacts are intensifying crises and conflicts around the world

One central finding of the report is that there are no "climate wars," as some experts claim. However, we are increasingly being confronted with crises and conflicts that are intensified by climate change. The following examples give an indication of what the future could look like:

Syria: Between 2006 and 2011 Syria suffered a serious drought destroying many people's livelihoods, especially in rural areas: Almost 75 percent of Syria's farmers lost their harvest. Many fled to the cities and the government failed to respond to the resulting humanitarian crisis. Matters came to a boil as a result of the influence of the Arab Spring combined with grievances against the authoritarian regime that had built up over the years.

Thailand: Heavy monsoon rains in 2011 led to flooding in 26 provinces, which affected two million people. The political landscape was already fragile after violent protests between 2008 and 2010. Many considered the government's attempts at managing the disaster to be misguided and inequitable. Hundreds of people protested the unfair distribution of aid supplies and the protests continued until a military coup occurred in 2013.

At the foundation of these and many similar examples are seven compound risks that interact in complex ways and extend across borders:

1. Local resource competition: As the pressure on natural resources increases, competition can lead to instability and even violent conflict in the absence of effective dispute resolution.

2. Livelihood insecurity and migration: Climate change will increase human insecurity for people who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods, which could push them to migrate or turn to illegal sources of income.

3. Extreme weather events and disasters will exacerbate fragility challenges and can increase people's vulnerability and grievances, especially in conflict-affected situations.

4. Volatile food prices and provision: Climate change is highly likely to disrupt food production in many regions, increasing prices and market volatility, and heightening the risk of protests, riots, and civil conflict.

5. Transboundary water management: Transboundary waters are frequently a source of tension; as demand grows and climate impacts affect availability and quality, competition over water use will likely increase the pressure on existing governance structures.

6. Sea-level rise and coastal degradation: Rising sea levels will threaten the viability of low-lying areas even before they are submerged, leading to social disruption, displacement and migration, while disagreements over maritime boundaries and ocean resources may increase.

7. Unintended effects of climate policies: As climate adaptation and mitigation policies are more broadly implemented, the risks of unintended negative effects - particularly in fragile contexts - will also increase.

Resilience as new compass for foreign policy

The G7 Foreign Ministers can take a leading role in avoiding the increased weakening and even total collapse of states and societies threatened by fragility challenges. Resilience - understood as the existential ability of a nation or society to cope with major crises - has to become the compass for foreign policy.

The essential tools for this are already available to the international community in the policy fields of climate adaptation, development, humanitarian aid and peacebuilding. However, a closer inspection reveals that the systems for supporting affected states often operate independently of each other. Therefore, the potential for concentrated efforts is insufficiently exploited.

Strengthened engagement of G7 states towards resilience

An integrated policy process means actively combining and coordinating climate change adaptation, humanitarian aid, peacebuilding and conflict prevention. We as authors of the report "A New Climate for Peace" recommend a range of entry points:

Integration begins at home: The G7 governments need to start with integrating climate and fragility risks into their ministries' relevant planning, implementation and evaluation processes.

Enhance G7 cooperation, come together for a new dialogue: Transboundary problems can best be solved through coordinated international measures to which a high-level G7 Task Force can contribute.

Set a global resilience agenda: The G7 governments can work together to contribute towards breaking down sectoral barriers that hinder comprehensive approaches to climate-fragility risks. A meaningful peace dividend can be generated through support for conflict-sensitive adaptation     policies.

Partner for resilience: Close cooperation between different initiatives can strengthen resilience at the global level and reduce fragility at the local level. The G7 need to forge close partnerships with local actors in states affected by fragility.

Undoubtedly, the comprehensive reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions remains essential to limit the threat of climate change risks. However, in the face of irreversible changes in climate, there is an urgent need for effective measures to face these risks.


[The full articles by Lukas Rüttiger and Dennis Tänzler originally appeared on The Blogof the Huffington Post. Please download the executive summary of the report hereA recent IISD publication on climate-resilient peacebuilding offers further insights.]