Stockholm, Sweden | AFP | Climate change poses serious challenges to current and future peace building efforts and can amplify conflicts, according to a report on years of devastating violence and drought in Somalia released Wednesday.
Researchers at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) looked at how conflicts and the peace building efforts of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) have been affected by climate change, and found that it “amplifies existing challenges and strengthens radical groups”.
“What it shows is that the security landscape is changing with climate change,” Florian Krampe, senior researcher at SIPRI’s climate change programme, told AFP, adding that many of the findings are applicable to other conflicts.
According to the report, decades of conflict in Somalia — described as “among the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world” — have been magnified by a series of severe droughts, which adds pressure to the country’s state-building process and makes UNSOM’s work more challenging in a number of ways.
For instance, the frequency and severity of conflicts between herders and farmers in the country’s rural regions have increased as changing seasons and weather means herding nomads have to adjust their routes.
Droughts and floods also displace more people, who seek shelter in camps which then serve as recruitment grounds for radical groups like al-Shabaab.
The displacement of large groups into new areas can also undermine the governance of those areas, as existing power-sharing agreements no longer represent the “demographic composition” on the ground.
While Krampe was hesitant to say that climate change by itself could cause conflict, he thought the evidence was clear that “climate change increases the probability of conflict and of violence”.
According to the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR, some 2.6 million people are currently internally displaced in Somalia and more than 800,000 remain displaced in neighbouring countries as a result of armed conflicts and recurring droughts.