By Stella Schaller, adelphi
The state of emergency in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon continues – residents around Lake Chad struggle with extreme food insecurity and are severely impacted by widespread violence. The crisis is often cited as a living example of the security threats climate change can pose, but in fact many pressures interact to create a perfect storm of risks. A new short film by adelphi investigates the root causes of the crisis, the role of climate change, and possible entry points to tackle climate-fragility risks in the region and beyond.
About 17 million people battle for their existence in the Lake Chad basin, many of which have been forced to leave their homes or are isolated in remote areas. The number of children suffering from acute malnutrition has risen to 800,000. Although international donors pledged $672m in February, the famine and humanitarian misery continues.
The recent resurgence of the jihadist group known as Boko Haram in the region has left at least 381 civilians dead after a series of suicide bombings and attacks since April 2017, Amnesty International announced in September of this year. The insurgencies have been ongoing for years, forcing farmers to leave their lands and interrupting essential economic activities.
FILM: The Lake Chad Crisis in 10 Minutes – featuring experts from the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the UN Security Council, UNDP, local peacebuilders and more.
As vegetation and water seem to be disappearing, increased international attention is given to climate change, and the impact of a degrading environment on migration and conflict. Recent research shows that as the climate changes, the conditions in which non-state armed groups operate change as well. The notion is that climate change contributes to creating a fragile environment in which non-state armed groups can thrive.
Throughout a series of interviews, representatives from affected countries and international experts highlight various aspects that must be considered within efforts to mitigate compound climate-fragility risks:
- Youth: Including young adults in political processes and providing them with economic opportunities is vital to prevent recruitment by terrorist groups. Unless the generational gap in politics is bridged and the economic outlook improved, local grievances will persist.
- Long-term planning: Peacebuilders and humanitarians need to plan for longer term impacts and use longer time frames than are currently being used. Looking forward that means incorporating a sustainable development perspective, and understanding future climate change implications for conflict. Moreover, it means using a conflict-sensitive lens from the outset, as Janani Vivekananda, Senior Advisor at adelphi, recently argued.
- Governance: African governments –national and provincial-, communities, civic organizations, and international partners need to cooperate across borders, share information, work against centre-periphery divisions and coordinate activities.
- Gender: Understanding the role of women in conflict, designing programmes in a gender-sensitive way and addressing regional gender norms is a precondition for successful programmes.
- Inclusivity: One of the drivers of instability is the political exclusion and social marginalization of communities in the Northeast of Nigeria, the region most affected by violent extremism. Any attempts to address the solution need to try and make isolated communities feel part of society again and thereby reduce Ensuring that all Nigerians feel protected and valued will dry up the springs of terrorism.
- Community knowledge: Following a ‘whole-of-society approach’, one must work with all stakeholders, ranging from women’s groups and healthcare providers to security providers and climate change experts. Bringing these together and including locals when developing solutions is key for grasping and dealing with complexity. Anyone interested in lasting solutions must learn from the knowledge of communities. Externally imposed solutions cannot work; instead, existing values, practices and norms are more adequate starting points.
- Conservation: Looking after the lake’s water, sharing it equitably among resource users and reducing waste will also help reduce vulnerability to climate and water variability.
The region has one of the world’s lowest development indices and has long been suffering from this multifaceted crisis. However, the crisis cannot be overcome within a few short years as the mismanagement and neglect of the region needs to be reversed with persistence a stronger political will. It will be important to actively engage with local stakeholders and – besides providing urgently needed emergency support – develop long-term and strategic action plans that are integrated and holistic, meaning that various stressors and cultural conditions are factored in.
The security challenges are daunting, but much of the pledged funding remains unspent and does not yet reach the most vulnerable. Given the complexities of the situation, more attention is required to understand how to respond and what to prioritize.