The Sahel region is highly exposed to climate change, but national and local factors mean that climate change will have differentiated impacts across the region. The region will gradually become hotter, with some areas experiencing increased, but erratic, rainfall. The immediate effects of these trends may include irregular seasons, droughts and floods. Interacting with social, economic and political factors, these could exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and increase the risk of violent conflict:
- Changing rainfall and seasonal patterns can sometimes fuel
and compound violent conflict over limited or unevenly distributed resources. Women and girls are especially vulnerable. Across the Sahel, climate change may increase the risk of clashes between herders and farmers over access water and pastures.
- Rapid-onset disasters and long-term climate change may force people to temporarily or permanently move, sometimes joining people displaced by armed conflicts. Migration is an important adaptation strategy, but it can lead to conflict between host and migrant communities.
- Disasters and climate change erode resilience, increasing the vulnerability of communities to predation by armed groups and manipulation by elites. Some armed groups recruit from communities whose livelihoods are affected by factors including climate change; and local militias can escalate farmer–herder conflicts.
To elevate new, locally-owned ideas about climate-related security risks in West Africa, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung’s Peace & Security Competence Centre Sub-Saharan Africa, together with the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) are bringing together regional stakeholders from civil society, regional organizations as well as local experts.
The meeting (invitation only) on the 17th of June will be the starting point of a new West Africa Climate Security Working Group which will continue to analyse the complexity of violent conflict in the region and its relationship with climate change, and develop criteria and suggestions for mechanisms to incorporate climate-related security risks into regional, continental, and international efforts to prevent and regulate conflicts in West Africa.