In the lead-up to the current crisis in Mali, the impact of climate change should have been a part of the preparation process undertaken by policy makers. In 2011, Oxfam International raised its concern about the drought in Mali similar to the one that has plagued countries in the Horn of Africa. Furthermore, a number of studies by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in 2006 highlighted the drought in Mali in the following way:
The second half of the 20th century has witnessed a dramatic reduction in mean annual rainfall throughout this region and an influx of migrants from nearby states is raising tensions. The drought also threatens to worsen the less-explored phenomenon of 'trapped populations’ in Mali.
Northern Mali and the surrounding Sahel region are burdened by chronic droughts as a result hundreds of thousands of people migrating to more suitable land and to the urban centres. This type of migration is often accompanied by dire consequences.
The challenge posed by climate change could lead Mali to greater threats and instability. Therefore, the international community should consider climate change a “threat multiplier” with the potential to intensify existing conflicts or even create new ones. Unless climate change adaptation is recognised as a viable solution to prevent and resolve conflicts in the face of high vulnerability to climate impacts, the changing climate in this region is likely to generate further conflict.
The recent crisis in Mali is one example of how climate change acts as a “threat multiplier” by exacerbating the existing tensions and triggering new conflict. The nomadic groups, such as the Tuaregs, who rely heavily on the land for their livelihood and feel that their interests are not protected by authority, rebelled over land and pasture, leading to inter-ethnic conflict. The possibility that Mali will face both catastrophic events, such as famines, and further conflict should be granted priority by both policy makers and international partners.
The consequences of climate change will affect a growing number of vulnerable people in this region. They will also exacerbate conflict in Mali unless vulnerable populations are assisted in building climate-resilient livelihoods. Communities and their local institutions must have effective links with national, regional, and international institutions. Adaptation should also be a priority and managed through coordination and cooperation among governments, civil society and the private sector, supported by international actors. Finally, the impact of climate change, which leads to more frequent and intense droughts, floods and desertification, will destabilise Mali in particular and the region in general unless urgent adaptation measures are taken now.
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Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan are currently engaged in vital talks over the dispute relating to the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River. While non-African actors are increasingly present in the negotiations, the African Union (AU) is playing a marginal role.
Climate change was more central than ever at this year’s Munich Security Conference (MSC), the leading international forum for senior military, security and foreign policy leaders. The release of the inaugural “World Climate and Security Report 2020” (WCSR 2020) by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) should help policymakers take effective action.
The mission of the Munich Security Conference is to “address the world’s most pressing security concerns”. These days, that means climate security: climate change is the ultimate threat multiplier, and anyone discussing food security, political instability, migration, or competition over resources should be aware of the climate change pressures that are so often at the root of security problems.
The European Green Deal has made the environment and climate change the focus of EU action. Indeed, climate change impacts are already increasing the pressure on states and societies; however, it is not yet clear how the EU can engage on climate security and environmental peacemaking. In this light, and in the run-up to the German EU Council Presidency, adelphi and its partners are organising a roundtable series on “Climate, environment, peace: Priorities for EU external action in the decade ahead”.