Building Peace and Climate Resilience: Aligning peacebuilding and climate adaptation in fragile states-IISD
It can be difficult to make the case for climate adaptation planning in contexts defined by fragility and violence. However, a failure to integrate climate adaptation considerations into peacebuilding plans and post-conflict development agendas can undermine the long-term viability of both. This article was originally published on the Ecosystem for Peace – A compendium of ideas website, hosted on medium.com, and is reprinted below with permission.
It can be difficult to make the case for climate adaptation planning in contexts defined by fragility and violence. Despite the often clear link between fragility, climate impacts, and climate vulnerability, it can be difficult to argue that limited time and resources should be put into plans for adapting to future and uncertain climate risks; governments and donors are understandably focused on alleviating immediate human suffering, re-establishing or strengthening public services, and generally creating the conditions for development and investment. However, a failure to integrate climate adaptation considerations into peacebuilding plans and post-conflict development agendas can undermine the long-term viability of both.
The converging crises of conflict and climate change can be mutually reinforcing, with climate impacts potentially exacerbating the conflict cycle and violence weakening the governance structures and institutions needed to build climate resilience.
There are, of course, considerable barriers to adaptation planning in such contexts beyond the prioritization of more immediate needs. Governance is weak, as governments struggle with the hard work of rebuilding the social contract and re-establishing their legitimacy in the eyes of their citizens. Adaptation projects and progress may have been derailed by conflict; populations may have been targeted or displaced, staff evacuated, and project resources damaged or destroyed. A dearth of reliable and accurate climate data and information can also hinder effective policymaking. Finally, donor priorities may have shifted. Unfortunately, with often similar root causes — weak institutions, discrimination, inequality, poverty, marginalization — the converging crises of conflict and climate change can be mutually reinforcing, with climate impacts potentially exacerbating the conflict cycle and violence weakening the governance structures and institutions needed to build climate resilience. One way to align peacebuilding, development, and adaptation strategies is through the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process.
What’s been done
The NAP process is a country-owned strategic process to integrate climate adaptation priorities into medium- and long-term development plans. For fragile states, the NAP process provides governments struggling with conflict, instability, and climate change the opportunity to align their peacebuilding, development, and adaptation agendas and lay the foundation for lasting peace. The NAP process is not designed to address the drivers of conflict in a country; however, as an integrated approach to development and adaptation planning, it is well-positioned to support peacebuilding processes in some of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries in several ways.[i]
First, the NAP process — similar to peacebuilding processes — requires that governments take a holistic approach to addressing vulnerabilities to climate change and conflict. It promotes both incremental and transformative actions to increase resilience across sectors and levels of government. Doing so effectively requires addressing the underlying causes of climate vulnerability — which in fragile states can overlap with the drivers of conflict, such as weak governance, inequality, and poverty.
Second, both the NAP process and peacebuilding timelines are concerned with medium- and long-term planning horizons. While fragile states face urgent and immediate adaptation and stability needs, it takes an average of 22 years for an economy to recover from a major conflict.[ii] A similar longer-term view, espoused by the NAP process, is required to adapt to a changing climate.
Third, the NAP process is contextually sensitive, flexible, and structured to evolve; as an iterative process it is well-placed to take into account the changing dynamics of fragile states and to be adjusted over time to reflect the evolving realities on the ground. As with sustainable peacebuilding programmes, the NAP process is not imposed from outside, but rather is country-owned and participative. And finally, the NAP process, in articulating a country’s adaptation priorities, can open the door to funding for technical support, capacity building, and institutional strengthening in countries often in dire need of resources for all three.
Governments are already using the NAP process to integrate conflict dynamics and considerations into adaptation planning and efforts.
A review of submitted NAP documents indicates that governments are already using the process to integrate conflict dynamics and considerations into adaptation planning and efforts.[iii] Several countries, including Cameroon, Ethiopia, Colombia, and Brazil, see adaptation as a clear means to preventing potential conflicts around land and water resources. Others, such as Palestine, recognize conflict as a key source of their population’s climate vulnerability. Still others — such as Sudan, Burkina Faso, and Colombia — note in their NAPs that adaptation plans need to recognize conflict as a driver of climate vulnerability and adaptation as a possible tool for conflict prevention.
There remains much to do to fully align NAPs with peacebuilding agendas in fragile states. Governments must ensure that their climate adaptation actions respond to conflict dynamics and, when possible, that they are designed to actively address the drivers of both climate and conflict vulnerability. This includes, at a minimum, ensuring that adaptation actions are conflict-neutral; interventions that do not, for example, consider the equitable distribution of adaptation benefits could cause more harm than good.They must also work to ensure that their peacebuilding plans and programmes are climate resilient and designed to cope with existing and expected local and national climate impacts. Donors also have a role to play; they must increase their support for conflict-sensitive, flexible, and autonomous adaptation planning in conflict-affected states, and fully support the transition from planning to implementation.
This article is a contribution to a compendium of 50 entries on the future of environmental peacebuilding, written by 150 authors in a collective effort to chart a future course of action. Environmental peacebuilding, climate security, environmental peace and security — these are all terms to articulate the relationship between natural resources and the lines between violent conflict and peace.
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