What's In Blue

Posted Tue 21 Apr 2020

Arria-formula Meeting on “Climate and security risks: the latest data”

Tomorrow (22 April), an Arria-formula meeting will be held via VTC on “Climate and security risks: the latest data”. It is being co-organised by Belgium, France, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, Germany, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and Viet Nam. The anticipated briefers are: Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs; Robert Malley, President and CEO, International Crisis Group; and Dan Smith, Director, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.  The meeting will be streamed live on the Facebook page of the French Permanent Mission to the UN starting at 3 pm EST.

The meeting is expected to consider ways to strengthen knowledge across the UN system of the relationship between climate change and security. In this regard, there may be reference to the climate-security mechanism that was launched in 2018 with voluntary funding and consists of staff from the UN Development Programme, the UN Environment Programme, and the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.  It is currently producing a “tool box” of guidance documents on climate-security issues that can be used by UN staff.

Other proposals that have been made in recent years to strengthen understanding of the connections between climate change and security may also be discussed in the meeting. France, for example, has espoused the idea of a report by the Secretary-General once every two years to the Security Council and the General Assembly on the linkages between climate change and security risks in different regions. Several Council members have also advocated for more systematic reporting on these risks in the Secretariat’s reporting on countries and regions. And there have been calls by some members in recent years for the establishment of a Special Envoy on climate and security.

Another aim of the meeting is to explore options for concrete action in specific cases. This could include, for example, enhancing the expertise of UN personnel in the field to identify climate-security risks and supporting the work of regional and sub-regional organisations in addressing these matters. The concept note for the meeting suggests that: “peace and development advisers, experts on prevention and mediators could be trained specifically and deployed in relevant situations”.

According to the concept note, the briefers are expected “to provide participants with the latest data on climate-related security risks and current mechanisms and policies to prevent them”. Member states in turn “are encouraged to focus their interventions on concrete proposals for UN climate-related conflict prevention policies”. Questions posed in the concept note to guide the discussion include:

  • How can the linkages among instability, conflict, and climate risks be better understood and what challenges and opportunities do they present?
  • What are the best tools and policies for comprehensive climate-related conflict prevention?
  • How can the UN system be empowered to encourage its entities to integrate climate-fragility risks into their policies and operations?

This will be the fifth Arria-formula meeting that has been convened on the relationship between climate change and security. The others were: “Security dimensions of climate change” (15 February 2013); “Climate change as a threat multiplier for global security” (30 June 2015); “Security Implications of Climate Change: Sea level rise” (10 April 2017); and “Climate Change: Preparing for security implications of rising temperatures” (14 December 2017).

Several countries continue to champion the Security Council’s engagement on climate and security matters, including permanent members France and the UK, and elected members Belgium, the Dominican Republic, and Germany, among others. Since 2017, the need for risk assessments and management strategies with regard to climate change has been incorporated into Council products on the Lake Chad region, Mali, Somalia, Central Africa, West Africa and the Sahel, and Darfur.

Nevertheless, the Council’s engagement on this issue remains controversial. Russia has expressed concern that Council involvement encroaches on the prerogatives of other UN entities, which it maintains are better equipped to deal with the issue. It has further argued that this is essentially a sustainable development issue, with only tangential links to international peace and security. The US under the Trump administration, and China, also have strong concerns about Council involvement on climate and security matters.