Climate change is a critical factor in Lake Chad crisis conflict trap: New report
UNDP-supported report finds solutions to Lake Chad crisis must address climate change; and that climate impact must be considered a factor in many conflicts around the world
Climate change is playing a critical role in the persistent crisis blighting the communities and countries that depend on Lake Chad in West Africa, combining with violent conflict, endemic corruption, environmental mismanagement and poverty, according to a new United Nations Development Programme-supported report.
Shoring Up Stability: Addressing Climate and Fragility Risks in the Lake Chad Region reveals that a crisis so often blamed on violence, poor governance and a shrinking lake is in fact profoundly impacted by climate change, and that any solution to stabilise the region must take into account the impacts of climate change.
“In many countries, we are seeing crises grow and worsen because of factors which seem obvious, be it armed conflict, corruption or poor governance. But in many cases, climate change is also playing a subtle but fundamental role,” said Ulrika Modéer, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy at UNDP.
“This new report shows that the crisis in Lake Chad is one of these crises. It makes a clarion call to consider climate change as a key driving factor in the crisis, and to seek solutions that address the climate change and the challenges it is presenting to the region,” said Modéer, who launched the report today at the Stockholm Forum for Peace and Development.
Janani Vivekananda, lead author of the report and Senior Advisor with independent think tank adelphi said: “In this report, we identified four climate-fragility risks in the region.”
“These are risks that climate change can exacerbate and include the undermining of livelihoods, conflict over natural resources, recruitment into armed opposition groups and the over-militarised response by local governments. All of these risks underline the fact that we need to focus our responses on addressing the root causes of a conflict to achieve lasting and sustainable solutions rather than thinking in traditional military terms,” said Vivekananda.
The report found that Lake Chad, which borders Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, is not shrinking, contrary to popular belief. But, the report says, that does not mean this vital resource for tens of millions of people is not being affected by climate change. As well as intensifying the other factors contributing to the crisis, climate change is contributing to the changing size of the northern pool of the lake and the increasing variability in the timing and amount of rainfall. The resulting uncertainty means that communities that depend on the lake no longer know what to plant and when, or when to switch from one livelihood to another.
“Communities are vulnerable to the pincer movement of climate change and continuing conflict. Years of conflict, poverty and human rights violations have fragmented social bonds, making it harder for people to cope with and adapt to climate impacts,” said Modéer.
“At the same time, climate change is aggravating the political and economic conditions that caused the violence in the first place, which undermines efforts to break this vicious cycle,” she added.
Ultimately, the report said, conventional approaches to stabilising volatile contexts have limitations when tackling conflict over resources if they do not take climate change into account. The report concludes that its findings resonate well beyond the Lake Chad region and demonstrate that climate-resilient and conflict-sensitive interventions offer a better chance of delivering peace.
The new report is the first of its kind study on the Lake Chad region and a pioneer of climate-fragility risk assessments globally. It is the product of an intensive two-year period of research across Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. It combines long-term hydrological data from the Lake Chad basin as well as brand new analysis of 20 years of satellite observations. It also builds on almost 250 interviews with community members, including past and present members of armed groups, as well as experts and officials.
Shoring up Stability was supported by UNDP, with additional research supported by the Foreign Ministries of the Netherlands and Germany: https://www.shoring-up-stability.org/
Janani Vivekananda, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vivekananda, Janani; Martin Wall, Florence Sylvestre and Chitra Nagarajan 2019: Shoring Up Stability. Adressing climate and fragility risks in the Lake Chad region. Berlin: adelphi.