Climate change is “an aggravating factor” for instability warns UN chief

Barry White

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres has warned that environmental degradation enables armed groups to extend their influence and manipulate resources to their advantage, he told the Security Council on Thursday 9 December.

Speaking during a debate on Security, in the Context of Terrorism and Climate Change, he warned that the regions most vulnerable to climate change “also suffer from insecurity, poverty, weak governance and the scourge of terrorism.”

When climate disruptions hinder the ability of government institutions to provide public services, “it fuels grievances and mistrust towards authorities,” Mr Guterres said.

He warned that when the impact of climate change leads to people losing livelihoods, “the promises of protection, income and justice – behind which terrorists sometimes hide their true designs – become more attractive.”

In Iraq and Syria, Islamic State has “exploited water shortages and taken control of water infrastructure to impose its will on communities” he said, while in Somalia, charcoal production has been a source of income for the al-Shabab extremist group.

In Africa’s Lake Chad basin region, jihadist group Boko Haram has been able to gain new recruits, “particularly from local communities disillusioned by a lack of economic opportunities and access to essential resources,” Mr Guterres said.

“In central Mali, terrorist groups have exploited the growing tensions between herders and farmers to recruit new members from pastoralist communities, who often feel excluded and stigmatised.”

Highlighting that initiatives to prevent conflict need to take account of climate risks, the UN secretary-general called for collective action to address the root causes of insecurity, stressing that “conflicts and terrorism do not take place in a vacuum.”

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