(MENAFN - Daily Outlook Afghanistan) In the years leadingup to Syria's civil war, the country endured three consecutive record-breakingdroughts. By forcing internal displacement, the droughts arguably contributedto the social tensions that erupted in popular protests in 2011. But that doesnot mean that the Syrian conflict is a 'climate war.
As extreme weatherevents proliferate, it's becoming increasingly easy to find a link betweenclimate change and violent confrontations. In Sudan, the ethnic cleansingcarried out by former President Omar al-Bashir has been tied to the SaharaDesert's southward expansion, which fueled social unrest by exacerbating foodinsecurity. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea have also beenconnected to food-security concerns, rooted in competition over access tofishing areas. Some now warn of a 'brewing water war between Egypt andEthiopia, triggered by the latter's construction of a dam on the Nile River.
But the 'climate warnarrative is deeply flawed. From Syria to Sudan, today's conflicts are theresult of multiple complicated and interrelated factors, from ethno-religioustensions to protracted political repression. While the effects of climatechange can exacerbate social and political instability, climate change did notcause these wars. This nuance is important, not least for the sake ofaccountability: climate change must not be used to duck responsibility forresolving or averting violent confrontations.
Still, military andclimate experts argue, climate change is a 'threat multiplier, and thusremains an important national security issue. Climate advocates and academics,however, have long avoided or rejected discussions of 'climate security – notto diminish the risks that climate change poses, but because they fear thatframing climate change as a security issue will undermine efforts to mitigatethose risks, by enabling the incremental securitization of climate action.
Securitization isoften a political tactic, in which leaders construct a security threat tojustify deploying extraordinary, even illegal measures, that infringe onpeople's rights. If the fight against climate change is securitized, it could,for example, be used to rationalize new restrictions on the movement of people,enabled by and reinforcing anti-migrant sentiment.
Framing climate as asecurity issue can also challenge already-strained international cooperation onclimate governance, while driving investment away from necessary interventions– such as the shift to a low-carbon economy – toward advancing militarypreparedness. The accompanying apocalyptic discourse, moreover, could well leadto public disengagement, further weakening democratic accountability.
Yet, even as someUnited Nations member states express concern about linking climate change moreclosely to security, most countries are moving in precisely that direction. In2013, the American Security Project reported that 70% of countries view climatechange as a threat to their security, and at least 70 national militariesalready have clear plans in place to address this threat.
The UN SecurityCouncil is also becoming more active in the climate security field. After recognizingthe role of climate change in the Lake Chad conflict (Resolution 2349), theCouncil held its first debates on the relationship between climate change andsecurity, with the participation of a large and diverse group of member states.
Given the impact ofclimate change on issues like migration and health, decoupling discussions ofclimate action from national security considerations may never have beenfeasible. On the other hand, linking climate change to security can positivelycontribute to mobilizing climate action. The key to avoiding the pitfalls ofsecuritization is to move beyond paradigms – which overemphasizemilitary-focused 'hard security narratives – that continue to shape securitypolicy and public discourse. One way to achieve that is to take a moregender-inclusive approach to conflict prevention and resolution.
Research shows thatwomen are more likely to pursue a collaborative approach to peacemaking, withactors organizing across ethnic, cultural, and sectarian divides. Such an approach'increases the prospects of long-term stability and reduces the likelihood ofstate failure, conflict onset, and poverty. When women participate in peacenegotiations, the resulting agreements are 35% more likely to last at least 15years.
Sustainable peace ispossible only by recognizing the necessity of local women's leadership, whohave relevant expertise and yet are currently excluded from national andmultilateral frameworks. After all, if policy decisions are to meet the needsof the affected communities, members of those communities must have a seat atthe table.
For example, inIndonesia, Farwiza Farhan has acquired unique insights from years offacilitating community-inclusive forest conversation that respects localstakeholders. In Somalia, Ilwad Elman has proved her ability to navigateintersectional peace-building efforts through her organization, Elman Peace.
Of course, there isalso an imperative to give more women the tools they need to join in thisprocess. The interconnections identified in the UN Sustainable DevelopmentGoals provide a functional roadmap for delivering the needed equity. Inparticular, improving reproductive health (SDG 3) and education (SDG 4) ofgirls and women is one of the most cost-effective ways both to mitigate climatechange (SDG 13) and to empower them as community leaders (SDG 5).
Rather than resistingthe securitization of climate, advocates and policymakers should be advancingwhat the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute calls 'theclimatization of security. This is best done by using security to increase thesalience of climate action, highlighting the shortcomings of current securityframeworks, and promoting gender inclusiveness and local leadership as holisticand long-term solutions for fostering local, regional, and international peace.