We have previously covered the linkages between climate change and security, highlighting the burgeoning work of the United Nations, and particularly the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, on the issue. In this piece we look at one way that research, diplomacy and advocacy come together to raise the alarm about the impact of climate change – in the Pacific Islands and other Small Island Developing States, in this instance - and discuss possible approaches to mitigate or prevent it.
Climate change presents the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific Islands, the region’s leaders have repeatedly stressed. The Secretary-General, when he visited the region in 2019, noted that not only was the Pacific on the front line of climate change, but that it was also leading the way with work being undertaken by communities to bolster resilience.
Regrettably, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have reversed some of the progress made in this area. As a result of supply chains disruptions, food insecurity has grown and exacerbated the region’s vulnerability to natural disasters. The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) has responded by establishing a Humanitarian Pathway to deal with pandemic-induced logistical delays and bolster the region’s ability to respond to the twin crises of a health and climate emergency.
The Department of Political and Peacebuilding affairs has stepped up its efforts to address the important linkages between climate change and security, including in partnership with Member States from the Pacific region, and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), who are among the leading voices on this topic in the international community. Over the past year, in collaboration with the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS), DPPA has been convening a series of discussions on different aspects of climate-related security risks in SIDS. These events inform the SIDS community on the latest research, provide a forum for sharing policy experience and help develop a shared understanding on common challenges and opportunities for collective action.
The latest of these discussions, held on 11 November 2020, featured an online briefing with the Pacific SIDS and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) group on the challenges of climate change and internal displacement. High Representative Fekita ‘Utoikamanu (OHRLLS) and Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari, together with presenters from the University of the South Pacific, the International Organization for Migration, Fiji and Sao Tome and Principe highlighted the need to work with communities at risk of displacement from both slow and rapid onset climate events. They emphasised the importance of building on the long history of migration among Pacific island countries to understand how populations were able to thrive and create new opportunities despite the loss of their traditional homelands. Participants also stressed the need for greater international financial support for countries’ relocation efforts. Earlier conversations in this event series have looked at the impacts of sea-level rise on maritime boundaries and at integrated approaches to climate-related security risk assessments.
DPPA will continue to work with the PIF, including within the framework of the new Peacebuilding Fund climate-related security project for the Pacific, to support countries’ efforts on analysis, prevention and planning, including in relation to internal displacement.
“There is growing interest from the UN’s member States, including in the Security Council, in the linkages between climate change, prevention and sustaining peace”, Assistant Secretary-General Khiari told Politically Speaking. “Nowhere are these links clearer than in the SIDS”.
Mr. Khiari confirmed that OHRLLS, in partnership with DPPA and the Pacific Islands Forum, will continue the discussion series with further sessions on aspects of the climate change and security challenges in the SIDS in 2021.
Header photo: Secretary-General António Guterres is welcomed with a Kava ceremony upon arrival in Vanuatu in May 2019. UN Photo/Mark Garten.