June 2023 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 May 2023
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Climate, Peace and Security

Expected Council Action

In June, there will be a ministerial-level open debate on climate, peace and security, which will be one of the signature events of the presidency of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Mariam Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, will chair the meeting.

Key Recent Developments

The Council’s most recent formal meeting on climate, peace and security was the 14 February ministerial-level open debate on sea-level rise and its implications for international peace and security.  Malta’s minister for foreign and European affairs and trade, Ian Borg, chaired the meeting. UN Secretary-General António Guterres; President of the UN General Assembly Csaba Körösi; and Coral Pasisi, director of climate change of the Pacific Community and president of Tofia Niue, briefed. Romanian foreign minister Bogdan Aurescu also briefed in his capacity as co-chair of the International Law Commission Study Group on Sea-level Rise.

On 22 March, there was an open Arria-formula meeting on “Protection of Civilians: Achieving a better protection of water-related essential services and infrastructure for the civilian population during armed conflicts”, which was organised by Mozambique and Switzerland. (Arria-formula meetings are informal meetings convened at the initiative of one or more members of the Security Council.) The minister of public works, housing and water resources of Mozambique, Carlos Alberto Fortes Mesquita, and the minister of foreign affairs of Switzerland, Ignazio Cassis, chaired the meeting. The briefers were Executive Director of UNICEF Catherine Russell, ICRC Director-General Robert Mardini, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, and Lebogang Ramafoko, the Executive Director of Oxfam, South Africa.

The Informal Expert Group on Climate and Security—which is currently chaired jointly by Mozambique, Switzerland, and the UAE—has convened twice this year to discuss the climate-related activities of UN missions: on 28 February about the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and on 26 April about the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Deputy Special Representative (Political) for South Sudan and Deputy Head of the mission Guang Cong participated in the meeting on UNMISS, while Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs Claudio Cordone and Deputy Special Representative and Resident Coordinator Ghulam Mohammad Isaczai participated in the meeting on UNAMI.

On 29 March, the General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution titled “Request for an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the obligations of States in respect of climate change”. The resolution, proposed by Vanuatu, requested the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to render an advisory opinion on the obligations of states under international law “to ensure the protection of the climate system and other parts of the environment from anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases for States and for present and future generations”. It further requested the court to render an advisory opinion on “the legal consequences under these obligations for States where they, by their acts and omissions, have caused significant harm to the climate system and other parts of the environment, with respect to…States, including, in particular, small island developing States…[and] [p]eoples and individuals of the present and future generations affected by the adverse effects of climate change”. UN Secretary-General António Guterres transmitted the General Assembly’s request to the ICJ in a 12 April letter.

In February, the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and the UN Department of Peace Operations held a pilot training course on climate, peace and security for UNMISS. This was the start of a two-year training programme on the issue for UN peace operations and selected members of UN country teams operating in highly climate-exposed regions. The programme is expected to introduce UN field staff to climate, peace and security concepts and explore with participants how they can address climate-related security risks and leverage climate-informed activities for peace.

On 22 March, Malta, Mozambique, Switzerland, and the UAE announced a “Statement of joint pledges related to climate, peace and security” during their Council tenures. Among the pledges, they committed to requesting the inclusion of climate change and conflict analysis as a cross-cutting theme in UN briefings to the Council; to strive to integrate climate, peace and security language in Council outcomes; and to draw attention to and follow up on recommendations and issues raised in Council meetings on matters related to climate, peace and security.

Women, Peace and Security

Several participants at the 14 February open debate on sea-level rise and its implications for international peace and security referenced the disproportional impact of climate change on women and girls. Malta, which convened the debate as one of the signature events of its February presidency, said that “[w]omen and children, including girls—who are largely responsible for securing household water and energy resources—often face the brunt” of climate-induced adverse events and that “threats and violence against women environmental defenders, especially indigenous women” are on the rise. Albania called for climate and environmental action as well as disaster risk reduction “to be gender responsive, value and promote all women and girls as agents of change and directly address the specific risks that they face”. Non-Council member Chile said that the Security Council “can respond to the triple nexus of gender inequality, State fragility and climate vulnerability” and that “[i]ts resolutions must acknowledge the overlapping nature of those issues and their specific impact on international peace and security, and set forth mandated tasks to address them”.

PBC-related Developments

Last year, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) held several meetings on the impact of climate change on peacebuilding activities in different regions. The Commission convened a meeting on the Sahel on 22 March 2022, focused on climate-related peace and development challenges; a 31 May meeting on the impact of climate change on peacebuilding in the Pacific Islands; and an 11 November meeting on Central Asia that concentrated on the adverse impacts of climate change on women and sustainable peace in Central Asia.

On 28 November 2022, the PBC convened its fourth informal consultative meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), which aimed to exchange views on the impact of climate change on peacebuilding in Africa and identify critical gaps in existing efforts to mitigate its effects. During this session, PSC and PBC members encouraged the strengthening of responses to climate-change-induced risks in the AU peacebuilding architecture and called for more predictable climate-responsive financing.

More recently, the PBC submitted written advice to the Security Council in a 14 February letter for the Council’s 14 February open debate on “Sea-Level Rise—Implications for International Peace and Security”. The PBC observed that to reduce affected countries’ vulnerabilities, it is critical to invest in peacebuilding programs and scalable, durable solutions based on nationally owned and determined priorities.

Key Issues and Options

Key issues for the Council include:

  • developing synergies between the Council and other UN bodies in addressing the negative effects of climate change on international peace and security;
  • supporting the efforts of UN peace operations (and other UN actors in the field) to address climate-related threats to peace and security in ways that sustain peace and build resilience; and
  • promoting effective collaborations between the UN and regional and local actors in this regard.

One possible option for this month’s open debate would be to invite one or more representatives from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Peacebuilding Commission, or the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to brief on ways in which different parts of the UN system can work to promote climate policies that promote peace and security.

Another possible option after the debate would be for the UAE to compile and disseminate a summary of the statements as an official UN document, highlighting the key points of the meeting.

Over the longer term, Council members could also consider a visiting mission to one or more regions on the Council’s agenda that focuses on the threats posed by climate change to peace and security and generates thinking about how the Council can best address these threats. 

Council Dynamics               

Although Council members are united about the need to combat the adverse effects of climate change, members continue to be divided over whether the Security Council should play a role in this respect and under what circumstances. Most Council members espouse more systematic engagement by the body on climate, peace and security issues. Brazil, China, and Russia, however, have traditionally had concerns about the Council’s approach to climate change, which they view as primarily a sustainable development issue rather than a threat to international peace and security. These members consistently express concerns about Council encroachment on other UN entities and processes—most notably the UNFCCC—that are designed to deal with the adverse effects of climate change.

Over the past year, there has been a heightened focus on climate adaptation and resilience—and the importance of supporting such activities through climate finance and peacebuilding—in Council deliberations. While several Council members have emphasised this perspective, it has been especially prevalent in the statements of the African members. Ongoing concerns that climate change is a “risk multiplier” that can exacerbate insecurity have also continued to be a feature of the Council’s deliberations.

The UAE, which is convening the open debate, held a ministerial-level Arria-formula meeting on climate finance as a means to build and sustain peace in conflict, post-conflict and crisis situations during its March 2022 Council presidency. It will also be hosting COP28 in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December.

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Security Council Meeting Record
14 February 2023S/PV.9260 This was a ministerial-level open debate on sea-level rise and its implications for international peace and security.
1 March 2023A/77/L.58 This was the Vanuatu-initiated General Assembly resolution titled “Request for an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the obligations of States in respect of climate change”.

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