Posts Tagged ‘climate’

Climate change can result in violent conflicts – peacebuilding NGO

Friday, December 4th, 2009

By Michael de Laine, Copenhagen, 4th December 2009

One of the effects of climate change is a heightened risk of violent conflict, especially involving poor, badly governed countries with a recent history of armed conflict, the independent peacebuilding organisation International Alert says in a new report. This risk adds to their burdens and makes it harder for them to adapt to climate change. Climate change negotiations focus on the availability and control of finance, rather on the complexities of climate adaptation and the need to harmonise adaptation initiatives with development.

As climate change unfolds, one of its effects is a heightened risk of violent conflict, says the independent peacebuilding organisation International Alert in a new report, ‘Climate change, conflict and fragility – Understanding the linkages, shaping effective responses’.

This risk is at its sharpest in poor, badly governed countries, many of which have a recent history of armed conflict. This both adds to the burdens faced by deprived and vulnerable communities and makes it harder to reduce their vulnerability by adapting to climate change.

According to the organisation, which has worked for over 20 years in areas such as Africa, South Asia, the South Caucasus, Latin America, Lebanon and the Philippines to lay the foundations for lasting peace and security in communities affected by violent conflict, policy discussions about the consequences of climate change are beginning to acknowledge the conflict and security implications.

“However,” International Alert says, “these concerns are not being properly taken on within the complex negotiations for a new international agreement on reducing global warming and responding to climate change. In the negotiating context, the discussion focuses on how much money should be available for it and how that money will be controlled. This discussion pays scant attention to the complexities of adaptation, the need to harmonise it with development, or the dangers of it going astray in fragile and conflict-affected states and thereby failing to reduce vulnerability to climate change.”

Shaping adaptation policies means going beyond the most immediate natural and social effects of climate change and looking to the context in which its impact will be felt, the report states. This is because it is the interaction between the natural consequences and the social and political realities in which people live that will determine whether they can adapt successfully to climate change.

“Doing this means addressing the realities of the system of power in fragile and conflict-affected societies, a structure of power that often systematically excludes the voices of all but a privileged few,” International Alert says. “Policies for adapting to the effects of climate change have to respond to these realities or they will not work. At the same time, the field of development itself will have to adapt in order to face the challenge of climate change. Neither development, adaptation nor peacebuilding can be regarded as a bolt-on to either one of the other two. The problems are interlinked and the policy responses must be integrated.”

In establishing the overall goal of international policy on adaptation as helping people in developing countries adapt successfully to climate change even where there is state fragility or conflict risk, the report makes eight specific policy recommendations:

  1. Adaptation to climate change needs to be conflict-sensitive – responding to the needs of the people, involving them in consultation, taking account of power distribution and social order, and avoiding pitting groups against each other.
  2. Peacebuilding needs to be climate-proof, ensuring that its progress is not disrupted by the effects of climate change that could and should be anticipated.
  3. Shifts towards a low-carbon economy must be supportive of development and peace – unlike what happened with the rapid move to biofuels.
  4. Steps must be taken to strengthen poor countries’ social capacity to understand and manage climate and conflict risks.
  5. Greater efforts are needed to plan for and cope peacefully with climate-related migration.
  6. Institutions responsible for climate change adaptation need to be structured and staffed in a way that reflects the specific challenges of the climate-conflict inter-linkages. For this to be possible, institutions must restructure in such a way as to maximise the participation of ordinary people and build accountable and transparent public institutions.
  7. Development policy-making and strategic planning in the future, at both international and national levels, need to integrate with peaceful climate adaptation planning. Compartmentalisation between these areas is no longer viable.
  8. A large-scale systematic study of the likely costs of adaptation is required, including the social and political dimensions along with economic sectors that have so far been left out of most estimates.

The consequences of climate change, the incidence of violent conflict and the corrosive effects of state fragility are all major problems, and taking them on together is to take aim at a very difficult target, International Alert says.

“But they must be taken on together because these problems are not isolated from each other,” the organisation says. “At the same time, the fact that they are linked problems helps identify linked solutions that benefit from synergies and that have an impact on several targets at once.”

International Alert says the appropriate overarching goal of international policy on adaptation is to help people in developing countries adapt successfully to climate change even where there is state fragility or conflict risk – which it sums up in the policy goal ‘building resilience’ with the backing of five policy objectives that together constitute a coherent agenda:

  1. Adaptation to climate change needs to be conflict-sensitive. In fragile and conflict-affected contexts, all interventions must respond to the needs of the people, involve them in consultation, take account of power distribution and social order, and avoid pitting groups against each other.
  2. Peacebuilding needs to be climate-proof. For example, post-conflict reconstruction and the reintegration of ex-combatants into their villages must take account of the long-term viability of the land and natural resources available for lives and jobs.
  3. Shifts towards a low-carbon economy must be supportive of development and peace. For example, there must be no repeat of the rapid move to biofuels, which not only reduced food availability, but also threatened to drive millions of people off the land.
  4. Steps must be taken to strengthen poor countries’ social capacity to understand and manage climate and conflict risks.
  5. Greater efforts are needed to plan for and cope peacefully with climate-related migration.

International Alert says these tasks are feasible – “demanding, certainly, but distinctly achievable.”

Two fundamental shifts are required: in the way institutions are organised, and in the way the climate-conflict inter-linkages are addressed.

  1. Institutions responsible for climate change adaptation – whether under the architecture of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), international financial institutions, development agencies or peacebuilding organisations – “need to ensure that their internal systems and structures promote adaptation even where there is state fragility or conflict risk. In these complex and delicate situations, adaptation must do no harm, and ideally help the goal of peace along its way. For this to be possible, institutions must restructure in such a way as to maximise the participation of ordinary people and build accountable and transparent public institutions.”
  2. Strategies must adapt to meet the combined challenge of climate change, conflict risk and state fragility. It is wrong to imply that henceforth there will be old-style development with adaptation on top. It may be that there will be a continuum from development activities that are not affected by climate change to development activities whose entire purpose is adaptation, but overall policy and strategy will present a new form of development. That means development assistance will need to adapt too.

According to the report, a crucial step towards these objectives and the appropriate modes of implementation is a large-scale systematic study of adaptation costs.

Current estimates of the costs vary widely and are reportedly so short of the mark that they will not very helpful to planners, International Alert says.

It adds that these estimates “ignore costs of climate change impacts against which adaptation – as presently conceived – cannot protect people, such as those that stem from elite resource capture and discriminatory regulations on land rights. A comprehensive and holistic assessment and costing of adaptation is a priority if we are to have any hope that climate change adaptation can reduce the risk of conflict and fragility.”

Whether the new form of development is (or can be permitted to be) more expensive than the outlay to which donors are already committed has yet to be calculated, the organisation says.

“But it seems likely that much and probably most expenditure on adaptation will simply be indistinguishable from expenditure on development because the activities will be fused,” it adds. “It is in the context of this challenging agenda and these practical considerations that the next steps on an uncertain road need to be designed.”

The report, prepared by International Alert and the Initiative for Peacebuilding – Early Warning (IfP-EW), is based on a research paper that was originally commissioned by the UK Department for International Development.

Analysts question whether EU will fully implement its Baltic Sea strategy

Friday, September 18th, 2009

By Michael de Laine, Copenhagen, 18th September 2009

EU leaders meeting in Stockholm have discussed the European Union’s Baltic Sea strategy. The Swedish EU Presidency confirmed that the EU heads of state and government are expected to adopt the strategy at the end of October. But analysts question whether the EU will fully implement its Baltic Sea strategy as words in the past have often not been followed by action.

The Swedish EU Presidency of the European Union confirmed today that the EU heads of state and government are expected to adopt the EU’s Baltic Sea strategy at the end of October.

The announcement came after representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and European Union member states, together with Toomas Ilves, President of Estonia and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt discussed the strategy at a meeting in Stockholm.

The strategy indicates that rapid action is needed to clean up the Baltic Sea.

“The environmental objective ranks as a high priority based on the urgency of addressing the ecological and environmental decline of the Baltic Sea in particular,” said the working group that prepared the action plan for the Baltic Sea strategy. “Whilst the development of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region also needs to address environmental concerns in land areas, the priority given to the marine environment reflects the 2007 European Council conclusions, highlighting that the strategy for the Baltic Sea region must address the urgent environmental challenges related to the Baltic Sea.

“Fulfilment of this objective will also secure the full economic potential of the goods and services provided by the marine ecosystem, thereby improving the well-being and health of people living in the region, and in line with the overall objectives of the Integrated Maritime Policy. The action plan introduces the notion of interdependence of countries in the Baltic Sea region in the field of environment, especially with regard to the pollution of the Baltic Sea.”

The idea behind the strategy for the Baltic Sea is to use the existing EU legislative programmes, to combine funding sources, and to get farming to become more efficient.

The strategy rests on four pillars (environmental sustainability, prosperity, accessibility and attractiveness, and safety and security) and 15 priority areas representing the main areas where the strategy can contribute to improvements (either through tackling the main challenges or through seizing the main opportunities); each priority areas will be the responsibility of one (sometimes several) EU member, which will involve all relevant stakeholders.

The ‘environmental sustainability’ pillar covers:

  • Reducing nutrient inputs to the sea to acceptable levels
  • Preserving natural zones and biodiversity, including fisheries
  • Reducing the use and impact of hazardous substances
  • Becoming a model region for clean shipping
  • Mitigating and adapting to climate change

The ‘prosperity’ pillar covers:

  • Removing barriers to the internal market in the Baltic Sea Region including improving cooperation in the customs and tax area
  • Exploiting the full potential of the region in research and innovation
  • Implementing the Small Business Act: to promote entrepreneurship, strengthen small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and increase the efficient use of human resources
  • Reinforcing the sustainability of agriculture, forestry and fisheries

The ‘accessibility and attractiveness’ pillar covers:

  • Improving the access to, and the efficiency and security of, the energy markets
  • Improving internal and external transport links
  • Maintaining and reinforcing the attractiveness of the Baltic Sea Region in particular through education, tourism and health

The ‘safety and security’ pillar covers:

  • Becoming a leading region in maritime safety and security
  • Reinforcing protection from major emergencies at sea and on land
  • Decreasing the volume of, and harm done by, cross-border crime

Described as a key instrument in promoting territorial cohesion with both land and maritime dimensions, the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is thus much broader than cleaning up the Baltic Sea.

In this way, the working group said, “the strategy aims at ensuring that policies at all levels (local, regional, national and at the level of the European Union both for the maritime and terrestrial policies) all contribute to a competitive, cohesive and sustainable development of the region.”

But the working group warned that the current economic crisis affects the actions and flagship projects presented in each section of the action plan.

“This implies a less-favourable climate for investment, affecting both public sectors and private business generally,” the working group said. “This makes it all the more essential that the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region allows the partners in the region to take a longer perspective, recognising that when this crisis has passed the regions that have best prepared will be those best equipped to take advantage of the new opportunities and innovations.”

The European Commission, which considers the proposed actions to be important, suggests that EU members use the crisis as an opportunity to review their priorities.

“In particular, it is an opportunity to pay special attention to the quality of life of citizens which requires a sustainable environment,” the European Commission said. “In addition, the crisis may change the focus of enterprises who may consider it wise to seize the business opportunities of the future in the ‘green businesses’. Moreover, the actions proposed could form part of any national recovery packages as they are likely to create jobs during implementation (e.g. transport and energy infrastructures) and afterwards through an increased accessibility and attractiveness of the region thereby creating economic growth.”

“The Baltic Sea strategy largely has what it takes to become a success,” said Carsten Schymik of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in ‘Blueprint for a macro-region’, an analysis of the strategy. “Its policy priorities – environment, economy, infrastructure, security – are reasonably well chosen and largely in line with the issue agenda as it is perceived by regional stakeholders.

“However, it is questionable whether the EU strategy will be fully implemented. Neither insightful analysis of regional problems nor proposals for their solution have been in short supply in the past. Yet words have often not been followed by action.”

Schymik said the main obstacle does not seem to be a lack of financial resources, more a lack of political will.

“Although the Baltic Sea strategy fails to receive additional funding from the EU budget, the existing funds have the advantage of being available even under the changed circumstances of the global financial and economic crisis,” he said. “Rather, it is decisive to generate the political will to implement the strategy. This conclusion underscores the relevance of politics as a precondition for the strategy to become a successful model test.”

In his analysis of the EU’s Baltic Sea strategy, Schymik said, “The action plan needs further fine-tuning with regard to deadlines, funding sources and responsible lead partners. Its greatest weakness, though, is a lack of measurable objectives or benchmarks, which would facilitate the progress review of the strategy… So far, benchmarks are only to be found in the environmental pillar of the strategy, at least to the extent that this pillar is based on the Helsinki Commission’s action plan for the Baltic Sea.”

Schymik added that the success of the strategy requires a strong impetus for regional cooperation, a new dynamism that cannot be built upon the prospect of acquiring additional funding or creating new institutions. Nevertheless, the present strategy contains a promising element – the ‘Annual Forum’.

“The idea of an annual forum should be seen as an opportunity to address one of the problems frequently referred to by regional stakeholders, namely the confusing multiplicity of regional networks and organisations, many of them working towards similar goals,” Schymik said. “Such a forum will not necessarily reduce the number of institutional actors in the region, but it could be instrumental to make the regional discourse more structured and focused. It could become a rallying point for the entire Baltic Sea Region.”

He envisaged the annual forum growing into a major event involving a variety of networks and organisations active in the region such as the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the Baltic Sea States Subregional Co-operation (BSSSC), the Union of the Baltic Cities (UBC), the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference (BSPC), the Nordic Council (NC), the Baltic Assembly (BA), the Baltic Sea Trade Union Network (BASTUN), the Baltic Development Forum (BDF), and the NGO Forum.

In addition, Schymik said, Russia’s role in the context of the strategy remains unclear. In contrast to Norway, Russia did not participate in the consultation process, nor has it given an opinion about the Baltic Sea strategy.

“Russia’s involvement thus remains a matter of discussion and a challenge for the EU and its member states in the Baltic Sea region,” Schymik said. “It would be useful to examine the present state of affairs of EU-Russia relations in the region, based on the question to what extent Russia must, can or may participate in the strategy in order to make it a success. In light of such an analysis it could be considered offering Russia a comprehensive partnership in the framework of the Baltic Sea strategy.”

A survey conducted by the Baltic Sea Unit of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) noted that EU’s Baltic Sea strategy is designed to deliver a more prosperous, environmentally sound, accessible and safe region.

“Hopes for implementing the strategy and reaching its goals are generally high, but are they too high?” the agency asked.

“We believe not and we agree with one of our respondents who maintained that the hopes entailed in the strategy are modest hopes compared to the advances already made in recent decades,” say Thomas Johansson and Mikael Olsson of the Baltic Sea Unit.

But, they said, contacts across this new Mare Nostrum of the EU are not yet intensive enough. This is a worrisome situation, because contacts are the key to generating awareness and fencing off ignorance. In its turn, awareness is a prerequisite for intuitive regional thinking.

“However, at present we still do not know our neighbours well enough to make them a natural first choice when faced with a need or situation of some kind,” added Johansson and Olsson. “Clearly, if thinking and acting regionally is to become the rule rather than the exception, continued attention must be paid to the role of contacts and unprejudiced awareness of the opportunities available in the region.”

Connecting the Baltic Sea region to the surrounding world thus remains a high priority issue, also in the years to come, they said.

Click here to go to the Sida website.

Click here to go to the Helsinki Commission website.