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Plenary session ta the Planetary Security Conference 2017 | Photo credit: adelphi/Paul Müller-Hahl

This year’s Planetary Security Conference set a concrete agenda for action on climate and security with the launch of The Hague Declaration. The six-point plan, which has been signed by almost 80 high profile experts in the field, from ministers to ambassadors, mayors, generals and academics, seeks to move the agenda from knowledge to action.

Clingendael director Monika Sie Dhian Ho told the opening plenary that the Declaration will help strengthen and deepen the work of the community moving forward. Just two days after its launch this is already happening - the Declaration is being discussed in the UN Security Council today. The conference - attended by 350 experts - came at the end of a year of ongoing and worsening political conflict and humanitarian crises, including the devastating ones unfolding in Lake Chad, Iraq and Mali, which were the focus regions for the two days. Ho said these crises are the result of complex and interconnected issues - including natural resource scarcity and poor governance that drive insecurity. 

Iraq’s Minister for Water, Hassan Al-Janabi, said his country, which has faced instability and harrowing wars, and is now entering a process of stabilization, was going through an additional “painful cultural change” as a result of dwindling water resources due to climate change-driven drought and related changes in rainfall patterns as well as control of natural water flows by neighbouring countries. “Iraq is at a huge turning point. We’ve just ended the war with ISIS, but it has depleted our coffers so that my infrastructure budget is zero. More than 100,000 of our people have been fighting ISIS. Now they are out of work and will go back to their farms, but the water shortage will make it hard. On top of that we experienced an extreme earthquake, which put a major dam out of service. So we may struggle to provide safe drinking water to the population. These are severe problems,” Al-Janabi said. Many participants acknowledged that there is a long way to go in addressing the root causes of such crises in order to prevent a relapse.

Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director of UN Environment said, “We are good at humanitarian and military responses but we are not good at identifying and addressing root causes, and as a result peace processes collapse.” He said, “The solution is to promote resilience on the ground, create jobs locally, drive sustainable investments and create hope.”

Lt.-Gen. Esa Pulkkinen, Director-General EU Military Staff, said that addressing the drivers of security risks was important if you wanted to have an impact on migration.  “It’s a longer term commitment but it is good for everyone,” he said.

Lt.-Gen. Jan Broeks, Director of the International Military Staff at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was of the view that climate change is a main factor driving instability because it gives rise to more disasters, creates famine and makes space for terrorism.  He said organizations like NATO could help countries become more resilient by strengthening their security operations.

Speaking from experience, Hamsatu Allamin, a gender activist, advocate and human rights defender from Nigeria, said that even before Boko Haram arrived, climate change-induced drought and water scarcity had driven youth out of rural areas and left them unemployed in the city. This made them vulnerable to recruitment by the terrorist organization, or forced them to migrate. There were many instances of women forced into sex work. She said international and governmental interventions fell short because they did not address the root causes of the crisis, put unrealistic expectations on society and in some cases even led to human rights violations. “They tell us not to engage with the terrorists, but the terrorists are our own children. If you get an infection you don’t throw away the whole body. We need to reach out to them, they really listen to us, they want to talk,” she said.

This was echoed by Rhissa Feltou, Mayor of Agadez. “Agadez is at a crossroads of climate change, migration and security changes,” he told the crowd. “It is creating a great crisis in our communities. Drought means young people find it difficult to get jobs. We would like to find solutions to get the youth back to work on their land.”

Solutions could include programmes such as those on land degradation and economic opportunities run by Ayan Mahamoud, IDDRSI Regional Coordinator for Programming and KM, Intergovernmental Authority on Development. Explaining their experience she said: “We learnt we have to be bold, beyond innovative and humble. We need to work with all partners and try new ways to pool funding.”

Hans Mommas from the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency added that systemic knowledge had gone from being the preserve of academics to being open and was therefore changing the debate. “Social, ecological and economic models are shifting to become more open and are creating a new way of making policy, and in doing so we need to ensure we move from an international to a regional conversation,” he said.

Finding new financing mechanisms is also key to helping solutions flow to those in need.  James Close, Director, Climate Change at The World Bank, said the institution was trying to bust policy, analysis and finance silos. He pointed to insurance schemes, climate vulnerability assessments and green bonds as some examples of these programmes.

Looking forward, Pieter Jan Kleiweg de Zwaan of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs said his government, together with the Swedes and the Italians, will host an Arria-formula meeting at the UN Security Council on climate and security on 15 December 2017.  Support for an institutional home for climate and security in the UN has been gaining ground and the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs will bring the Hague Declaration on Planetary Security to New York.

But there is still much more to do to deepen the agenda. Throughout the year there have been positive developments in the climate and security space, including acknowledgements in national and global fora, policies and strategies. Examples include the Australian Senate Enquiry into the issue, the EU’s new strategy for promoting resilience, and the Lake Chad UN Security Council resolution as well as the subsequently announced comprehensive risk assessment.

The Planetary Security Conference ended with the hope that the surge in momentum around the Declaration would help drive the agenda in the year ahead.


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