On January 25, 2019 the Dominican Republic, during its month-long presidency of the UN Security Council (UNSC), hosted an “open debate” on climate change and security, which featured a number of important moments. The World Meteorological Organization publicly addressed the UNSC for the first time in its history, and a number of countries (among them France, the UK, Germany, Peru, Poland and Belgium) called for the UNSC to establish increased analytical capacities for addressing climate risks to international security, such as a “clearing house” for data and information, including an early warning system and an annual report on climate and security to be delivered by the UN secretary general to the UNSC. These calls were consistent with the Center for Climate and Security’s “Responsibility to Prepare” recommendations delivered to the UNSC in December 2017, especially those on “institutionalization” and “rapid response” which recommended that the UN develop “Climate Security Crisis Watch Centers” to keep the UNSC informed.
The open debate hosted by the Dominican Republic comes on the heels of two years of significant attention to climate and security at the UNSC, including the launch of a Group of Friends of Climate and Security by Germany and Nauru in August 2018 (which now includes 40 nations), a June 2018 resolution on Mali, an open debate hosted by Sweden in July 2018, a resolution on the conflict in Somalia adopted in March 2018, an Arria Formula dialogue chaired by Italy (and co-hosted by Sweden, Morocco, the UK, the Netherlands, Peru, Japan, France, the Maldives and Germany) in December 2017, and a resolution on the Lake Chad Basin adopted in March 2017. Phew.
But that was then. What now? Most immediately, Germany (who holds a non-permanent seat on the UNSC in 2019 and 2020) and its partners in the 40-nation strong Group of Friends of Climate and Security, are gearing up for two years of elevating attention to the security risks of climate change at the UNSC. You can bet that the objectives above, particularly those related to increasing the capacity of the UNSC to respond to climate and security risks, will be very high on that agenda. That’s important, as addressing this unprecedented risk to international security will require unprecedented foresight. An early warning system, or a Climate and Security Crisis Watch Center at the UN, housing expertise and information that can be easily digested and acted upon by the UNSC, will be central to ensuring that the international community can fulfill its responsibility to prepare for this growing risk.
To read more on the Center for Climate and Security’s perspective on this topic, see our Responsibility to Prepare program.