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During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Marine General Thomas D. Walhauser, Commander of U.S. Africa Command (head of all U.S. forces on the African continent, barring Egypt), fielded a question from Sen. Gillibrand regarding the links between climate change, food insecurity and terrorism, and their impacts on AFRICOM’s mission and posture. General Waldhauser noted, in particular, the role of climate change in desertification, stating: “I would say from the climate perspective, is that we have seen the Sahel – the grasslands of the Sahel – recede and become desert almost a mile per year in the last decade or so. This has a significant impact on the herders who have to fight, if you will, for grasslands and water holes and the like.”
Below is General Waldhauser’s full statement on the subject: (more…)
On January 30, the UN Security Council (UNSC) took another step forward in substantively addressing the security implications of climate change. The Presidential Statement, which builds on a series of recent actions by the UNSC (including a resolution last April on climate and security in the Lake Chad region and an Arria Dialogue in December on climate and security that featured the Center for Climate and Security’s Responsibility to Prepare framework) addresses the intersection of climate change and stability across West Africa and the Sahel – a wide swathe of the African continent that includes 26 countries. (more…)
At a briefing for the United Nations Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice spoke at length about conflict, insecurity and vulnerability in the Sahel region, and the persistent drought overlaying it all. She also highlighted the U.S. role in assisting the region, stating:
The U.S. has committed more than $445 million in 2012 to humanitarian assistance for drought-affected and conflict-displaced communities in the Sahel. We intend these resources to alleviate the dire situation at hand, reduce chronic vulnerability, and ultimately to promote more inclusive growth.
These are, of course, worthy aims. But in order to truly succeed, plans for reducing chronic vulnerabilities in the Sahel will need significant “climate-proofing,” given the region’s worrying climate forecast. As we have indicated previously:
There is strong evidence that climatic conditions in the Sahel have been steadily growing worse, particularly in regards to rainfall levels. According to at least six studies of this phenomenon, highlighted by UNEP in 2006 (see page 3), “the second half of the 20th century has witnessed a dramatic reduction in mean annual rainfall throughout the region.” A 2005 NOAA report attributed the low rainfall to changes in sea surface temperature (likely caused by a combination of natural variability and human-induced change), and both a NOAA study in 2006, and another by Shanahan et al in 2009, attributed drought in the West African Sahel to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, which is responsive to sea surface temperature changes.
Absent significant and smart investments in climate adaptation measures, the Sahel may face an even more fragile future. Hopefully, the United States will be in a position to play a leadership role in helping to generate such resources.
Libya Hurra. Free Libya. This was one of the main rallying cries for the Libyan opposition last year, which with NATO assistance, toppled the brutal 40-year reign of Muammar Gaddafi. But four and a half months after Gaddafi’s downfall, Libya under the leadership of the interim National Transitional Council (NTC) is facing the problem of reconciling the many different “free Libyas” envisioned by different publics, and addressing allegations of some “not-so-free” practices. The eastern region of Cyrenaica, with its capital at Benghazi (the heart of the anti-Gaddafi movement) has declared itself a semi-autonomous region, prompting major protests in both Benghazi and Tripoli. Despite recent successes by the central government, armed militias still roam the country, and the capacity of the government in Tripoli to keep them in check has been questioned. Indeed, the city of Misrata has been described as a virtual “armed city-state” in opposition to the central government. Furthermore, reports of human rights abuses committed against suspected Gaddafi sympathizers, including black African migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, abound.
But while the Libyan government currently seeks in earnest to address these conflicts, it may be less overtly political issues, such as climate change and water resource management, that hold the key to building unity. (more…)