What's In Blue

Climate Change and Food Insecurity: High-level Open Debate

Tomorrow (13 February), the Security Council will convene for a high-level open debate on “The impact of climate change and food insecurity on the maintenance of international peace and security”, the signature event of Guyana’s presidency. President Mohamed Irfaan Ali of Guyana will chair the meeting. UN Secretary-General António Guterres will provide opening remarks. The expected briefers are: Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Simon Stiell; Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol; and Jimena Leiva Roesch, the Director of Global Initiatives and Head of Peace, Climate, and Sustainable Development at the International Peace Institute. It appears that over 80 member states, including the 15 Council members, are expected to participate in the open debate.

Prior to the meeting, Council members that are signatories to the joint pledges related to climate, peace and security—France, Guyana, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Slovenia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America—are expected to hold a stake-in focused on climate change and food insecurity. (Through the joint pledges, these countries have committed to striving for the systematic integration of climate change, peace and security into the Council’s work).

Guyana has circulated a concept note in preparation for the open debate. It states that the objective of the meeting is to promote enhanced understanding, more coordinated responses, and proactive approaches to addressing the linkages between food insecurity and climate change in a peace and security context. The concept note adds that the meeting will provide Council members and other member states with the opportunity to “highlight opportunities to enhance international efforts to strengthen food systems, prevent acute food insecurity and foster preparedness, so as to reduce the impacts of climate change”.

Guyana has posed several questions in the concept note to help guide the discussion:

Stiel’s participation will mark the first time that a UNFCCC representative briefs in a formal Council meeting on climate change, peace and security. Bechdol may emphasise that conflict and climate change are major drivers of food insecurity. In this context, she may highlight tensions between herder and farmer communities exacerbated by competition over reduced land and water resources resulting from climate change. She may also advocate for enhanced capacity in UN peace operations to help them address the security implications of climate change. Leiva Roesch may maintain that tackling climate change requires the efforts of all parts of the UN system. She may also suggest ways the Security Council can better investigate the linkages among climate change, food insecurity and conflict.

In tomorrow’s meeting, several Council members (and other member states) are expected to emphasise the ways in which climate change, food insecurity and conflict are interconnected. Concerns may be expressed about the differential effects of climate change and food insecurity on women and youth. In addition, members may reference herder-farmer conflicts over dwindling resources in different parts of Africa. While noting that climate change concerns have been included in resolutions renewing several peace operations, some member states may call for the more systematic integration of climate change, peace and security issues into the Council’s work. Some member states may call for peace operations to be equipped with the information they need to prevent potential outbreaks of violence resulting from climatic shocks, such as droughts and floods, that restrict the availability of food. They may also call on UN peace operations to work closely with UN country teams to address the adverse effects of climate change in a way that avoids the duplication of efforts.

Other member states may sound a note of caution about the topic of tomorrow’s open debate. China and Russia have long expressed reservations about the Council’s work on climate change, arguing that it is primarily a development issue that does not generally fall within the Council’s mandated responsibilities. Of members that entered the Council in 2024, Guyana, ROK, Sierra Leone and Slovenia are strong advocates of Council involvement on this file. Continuing members Mozambique and Switzerland remain co-chairs of the Informal Expert Group on Climate Change, Peace and Security (IEG) this year; they also served as co-chairs of the IEG in 2023, alongside then-Council member the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

While the Council has adopted three outcomes on food security—one resolution (S/RES/2417 of 24 May 2018) and two presidential statements (S/PRST/2023/4 of 3 August 2023 and S/PRST/2020/6 of 29 April 2020)—this issue has also elicited controversy. For example, although several members support Council engagement on food insecurity, Russia has repeatedly argued that the Council is not the appropriate body to consider this thematic issue since other UN organs are mandated to address hunger, which can have multiple causes. Guyana and Switzerland are the Council’s focal points on conflict and food security this year.

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