The rise of non-state armed groups and terrorism poses new challenges for national, regional and international security. As the climate is changing, so too are the conditions in which these groups operate. Our new video, featuring Neil Morisetti and Bert Koenders, sheds light on ongoing discussions and latest research revolving around climate change, non-state armed groups and terrorism.

 

"Terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State and Boko Haram, have dominated headlines in recent years. Both groups are known for their ruthless brutality. Their rise has posed new challenges for national, regional and international security. As the climate is changing, so too are the conditions in which these groups operate. Climate change increases livelihood insecurity and reduces the ability of governments to respond.

 

Neil Morisetti (Director of Strategy, UCL Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy Department):
The link between climate change and any form of disruption is that if people who have lost their land or livelihood because of the impact of a changing climate in an unstable environment where the government can’t look after their citizens, then they are potentially recruits for organizations such as Boko Haram, IS or Al-Qaeda - or they can become involved in crime. They may not, but it is a potential for this and therefore we need to be aware of it.

Bert Koenders (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of the Netherlands):
You see the desertification as a result of climate change, resulting in scarcity, therefore conflicts of different groups of people that live there in very difficult circumstances. That often leads to the importation of terrorism of extremist groups who take advantage of this. It is an example of the relationship between security and climate change. Therefore, those who think still – there are only a few – that they can deny the climate problem and even if they are not interested in it they might be interested in the security and migration part.

The complex risks which arise from climate change can contribute to the emergence, and growth, of non-state armed groups. This does not mean that there is a direct link between climate change and terrorism.
But climate change - coupled with other challenges - such as poverty, inequality or marginalisation, can provide a fertile ground for non-state armed groups to thrive, and further contest state authority.

Lukas Rüttinger (Senior Project Manager, adelphi):
There are two main mechanisms or relationships between climate change and how it affects the contexts within which these groups operate. One mechanism is that climate change helps or contributes to create fragility and within fragile environments or contexts, these groups can operate more freely, and they can grow and rise. The second mechanism is that climate change increasingly negatively impacts the livelihoods of local populations, for example if they depend on agriculture. And that makes them more vulnerable not only to climate change but also the recruitment by these groups.

A too narrow perspective on non-state armed groups - framing them only in the context of ‘the war on terrorism’ - risks downplaying the complexity of the problem. A broader perspective will help to better address the root causes of the rise and growth of these groups. To discover more about this topic, and find recommendations for policy makers, download adelphi’s report on “Insurgency, Terrorism and Organised Crime in a Warming Climate”.