Climate Change and Peace at the Palais des Nations (panel discussion)

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The event “Sustaining Peace in an Era of Climate Change” was held at the Palais des Nations on November 8th, during the 31stSession of the UN Universal Periodic Review.

During the panel, the speakers discussed various issues and conflicts arising from climate change and aimed to provide some solutions regarding peacebuilding and peacekeeping in such a complex and tumultuous age.

Lindsey Cook started off the panel by declaring that climate change is a pressing issue. She explained that, as normal citizens, it is difficult to grasp the extent of the damage caused, especially because it is hard for scientists to communicate and translate their findings in a language understandable by all.

She stated that social change is key to effectively tackle climate change. Limiting the rise in temperature (which, she claimed, is still possible today) would greatly alter the impact that climate change is expected to have on vulnerable communities globally. It would also facilitate peacebuilding processes and reduce the risk of conflict: climate change puts a great pressure on the earth’s resources and their availability; it results in reduced field crops availability; it puts pressure on borders and forces migration; it impacts agriculture and vulnerable communities.

Anna Brach, the second panelist, discussed the adverse impact of climate change on human security. She explained that climate change’s effects have given rise to violent extremism: vulnerable people join violent groups as their last options to survive and meet their basic needs.

In this regard, she exposed how climate change is fueling conflicts. She stated that this issue impacts both the developing and developed countries: it is about the global human security consequences of climate change.

Ms Brach provided two key solutions: protection and empowerment. Protection is about creating the norms, institutions and policies to intervene appropriately wherever needed. Empowerment is a key element for human security especially in climate change action, she explained. The most affected populations are the vulnerable ones and they definitely need to be empowered.

She also noted that indigenous people, often part of the vulnerable segments of societies, need to be listened to and their knowledge valued. This point was relevant and well-thought considering that these people must be empowered not only with respect for their rights and security, but also because they have precise and accurate knowledge of their environment, indigenous groups often know which techniques and methods work best for the conditions under which they live and their traditional methods sometimes have proved to be simpler but also more effective than the new technological methods.

Amanda Kron encouraged the development of integrated assessment methods to better understand climate change and fragility dynamics. To achieve this, she proposed three tools that she used in a project on Climate Change and Security in Nepal and Sudan: guidance document, monitoring and evaluation note, a toolbox with tools, exercises and further reading.

She further explained that many issues are recurrent, such as livelihood security and migration. They create tensions over local resources and give rise to grievances between the host communities and the displaced populations. Considering this problem, she recommended, as a key solution, to strengthen the relationships between different groups and communities.

In this regard, CD4Peace values such recommendation as, from our point of view, cultural understanding and cooperation is key to the achievement of sustainability and crucial to peacebuilding.

Isobel Edward discussed the potential of decentralized renewable energy (DRE) in peacebuilding strategies: beyond the electricity output, there are many benefits to DRE, it supports decentralized power and avoids to sustain the legacy of corporate ownership. It creates more jobs than large-scale projects, allows local people to become business owners and provides greater economic independence to these people.

DRE has already been used in peace projects globally. Could energy finally be a road to peace rather than a source of conflict?

Although Ms Edward’s approach diverged from her colleagues, her view of an effective and fair system (decentralized and sustainable) recalled of the notion of empowerment and protection evoked by Ms Brach. She emphasized the need for new methods such as DRE with consideration of their impact on people’s security and wellbeing, a concern shared by all the panelists.

Mr. Farukh Amil noted that climate change issues have not plainly risen from human activity, they stem from a rampant need to grow. In terms of his recommendations, Mr. Amil focused on the individual impact that citizens must aim to have. He called for a retrospection on our relationship with trash.

The panelists focused on the social aspect of climate change and of its potential solutions. They made a clear link between conflict, violence and climate change. Talking about risk, vulnerability and fragility, instead of exclusively discussing the political solutions (policies and institutions) they also focused on what we, as communities and individuals, can do. An emphasis was put on empowerment of the vulnerable people, which is not only crucial for them but will also help creating the right environment for a positive change to take place, thanks to their knowledge and contribution.

As we noted during this panel, it seems that the link between culture and environment is increasingly acknowledged. This is very interesting for CD4Peace because our vision is based on the belief that we need culture and social cohesion to tackle today’s environmental and societal challenges.

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