Climate Security and the Prevention of Violent Extremism

Statement delivered by Asako Okai at the 2021 Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development, High level panel discussion on Climate Security and the Prevention of Violent Extremism.

Posted On May 6, 2021

Distinguished panelists, participants, and partners from around the world,

A warm welcome to all. Allow me to thank SIPRI and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs for supporting this critical discussion and our distinguished speakers for joining us today.

Climate risks, when interacting with crises, conflicts, and activities of violent extremist groups, heighten security concerns. Natural resource constraints and related grievances, aggravated by climate change and COVID-19, can provide fertile ground for violent extremist organizations to attract vulnerable populations.

As highlighted in both UNDP’s policy brief on the “Climate Security Nexus and the Prevention of Violent Extremism” and recent research on Climate Change and Violent Extremism in Africa, there is an imperative to holistically consider this risk landscape.

UNDP’s solution is two-fold: First, integrating climate considerations into PVE analysis and actions; and second, understanding climate action as part of a comprehensive approach to prevention, sustainable peace and human security.

UNDP is uniquely positioned to deliver these shared solutions. UNDP’s Climate Promise on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement is the world’s largest offer of support for the enhancement of countries’ climate pledges. We are the biggest implementing partner within the UN system for major global funds, such as Green Climate Fund and Global Environment Facility. Also, UNDP works in 34 countries to implement PVE programmes firmly grounded in human rights principles.

UNDP’s work on climate security focuses on making all conflict prevention and peacebuilding work climate-risk-informed, as well as ensuring that climate mitigation and adaptation work is peace-positive that goes beyond “do no harm”. Furthermore, the Climate Security Mechanism, was established in 2018 by UNDP, Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and UN Environment Programme with support from Sweden, later joined by Norway, Germany and the UK. The Mechanism and UNDP’s other climate security work now serve 25 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States, while also providing technical support to eight regional/partner entities including UN peacekeeping and political missions.

Bringing our expertise in climate security and PVE together, UNDP is working to shift the discussion from an academic debate to identifying good practices and operational responses.

UNDP’s policy brief on the Climate Security Nexus and PVE highlights three flagship field interventions:

(1) In Sudan, UNDP integrated climate security considerations into analysis of conflict, and into community stabilization efforts in Darfur;

(2) In Central Asia, we supported a regional assessment which helped communicate climate change and security implications to policymakers and inform the design of a proposal focused on the Ferghana Valley; and

(3) In Iraq, UNDP and its partners deployed innovative off-grid solar solutions for returnees in the Mesopotamian marshes. It is addressing push factors of violent extremism by strengthening livelihood diversification, social cohesion and stability.

Our most recent workstream is to better address the intersections of climate vulnerabilities and the root causes of violent extremism through Behavioral Science. Last week UNDP launched a step-by-step guide for practitioners to make use of behavioral sciences to address violent extremism. Experience shows that application of behavioral sciences will increase and broaden whole-of-society impacts including youth and women.

There is still more work to be done. For instance, UNDP supports the development of PVE national plans, but based on a preliminary inspection of the 12 publicly available PVE national action plans as of January 2021, none of them address climate change.

Building on UNDP’s existing toolbox of guidance and practice notes, such as one on M&E and risk management for PVE programming, we will explore the development of further knowledge to ensure that PVE initiatives are more sensitive to climate security.

As we face an age of compound risk, we need integrated and inclusive conflict prevention and peacebuilding approaches so that we can help build resilience of the communities we serve.

I look forward to an engaging discussion today and synergy of actions ahead.

Thank you.