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Why is climate change a critical factor for peacebuilding? How are the fields of climate change, conflict prevention and peacebuilding interlinked? As shown in the example of Kenya, peacebuilding is necessary for communities to cope with the effects of climate change, including resource and land conflicts, and to prevent the negative synergy between climate change and conflict from worsening.
The relationship between climate change and security has been discussed globally and at national level- for example in Kenya- with different pathways being suggested to address the security dimension. The recent IPCC report (AR 6) observes that indirect impacts of climate change on people’s livelihoods increase the risk of conflict. The report paints a grim picture of already irreversible climate threats underscoring the importance of climate adaptation and mitigation to reduce such risks that could lead to conflicts. One of the greatest mistakes when dealing with a complex issue such as climate change, security and conflict and other emerging stresses is to leave out the dimension of peace and the interlinkages of all these dimensions. Resources have been wasted by taking such an exclusive pathway as well as producing policies that are counter-productive for building and sustaining peace. This leads to an absence of successful examples on how to resolve climate induced insecurities and design effective climate security policy mechanisms together with peacebuilding and policy options in Kenya, the Horn of Africa region and the wider continent. But all is not lost, the 2019 Global Peace Index is beginning to factor in climate change into its analysis, contributing to the ongoing debate over the link between climatic changes and conflict risks and draw on respective peacebuilding needs.
The complexity of solving the multiple crisis in Kenya stems from the fact that both climate-related disasters (/impacts) and conflicts share both underlying vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies. Conflict is rooted in and often reinforces already existing vulnerability, exposure and inequality. Climate-related effects add on to these conflicts, which is hardly felt equally by all. Tensions between farmers and pastoralists exacerbate as a result of the inability to cope with sudden shocks as droughts, floods and long-term stresses such as decreased agricultural yield, lack of pasture etc.. People from Turkana, Pokot, Baringo and Northern counties are forced to migrate to neighbouring counties or, which again leads to more tension. Most affected groups are the pastoralists, women left behind to take care of families, children, youth (who then join militia groups) and the old persons. Addressing this twin crisis becomes a challenge because climate-related security risks span different policy areas, such as foreign policy, defence, development, economy, and environment. In addition, climate change and security come in between the root causes of conflict and power. For example, the persistent conflict between the Pokot and Marakwet over pasture and water but in addition the conflict has also been over the west Pokot–Marakwet boundary and cattle rustling. Power in these communities is equated to a large number of animals. And yet modalities of addressing this connectedness is hardly explored. Climate impacts are known to undermine existing peacebuilding operations by making the transition to sustainable development more difficult and costly. This is because conflicts associated with natural resources carry a greater risk of relapse over the first few years of a peace agreement. Climate related security and peace measures are indeed context specific and no one size fits all. Institutional and practical challenges in communicating such a nexus to the diverse stakeholders is not an easy task and that could be the reason why a good understanding or working frameworks have not been put in place yet although this nexus is not new in the Horn of Africa region. Lack of both research evidence and citizen data can be another barrier contributing to the elusive climate peace agenda in Kenya. The other question that has always emerged understanding the climate change, security and peace nexus is ‘who is who’ on the table when climate security and peace matters are being negotiated. Often it has emerged that only those affected and peace makers engage in the process leaving out those on the climate change side.
This therefore calls for a more nuanced and intergraded approach to addressing the Climate security and peace angle as suggested below.
Considering climate induced security risks in Peace agreements: An internal analysis of selected peace agreements in Kenya show that climate change is not incorporated into peace agreements but rather it is more of the governance of natural resources that forms part of the provisions in the agreements. Both climate change and conflict work have developed numerous assessment tools with a focus on climate change, natural resources or conflict. However very few of these tools integrate all three dimensions. According to Blundell and Harwell, negotiators simply consider cease-fires too fraught to deal with such seemingly complex contentious issues and prefer to leave it to the peace building phase. Future peace agreements should consider or utilize such data that is integrated in order to design a more comprehensive and long-lasting peace agreement.
Involvement of peace actors in the climate change work: The increasing frequency of droughts and floods in many peacebuilding contexts add an additional dimension to this dilemma. Peace building actors need to know more about the climate related issues in the context in which they are operating. There isa need to look closely at the risks that climate change poses for peacebuilding and conflict activities. As well as assessing the risks that climate adaptation projects pose to the prospects of peace and the risks that arise from climate insensitive peace building interventions.
Women and Youth as agents of change: Climate change and peace crusaders need to use the narrative of women and youth as agents of positive change rather than victims of climate impacts and therefore deserve special attention. Such an approach helps to mitigate local grievances and reduce marginalization which are also root causes of conflict.
Encourage the use of climate data to inform early peace building actions early peacebuilding decisions. Information regarding land use planning, resource prospecting, and investment should be included in peace agreements to commit post-conflict counties or communities to a much longer-term development pathway.
Develop and strengthen the existing cross border peace agreements which involve communities across borders. This will help in creating sustainable and diversified livelihoods in cross-border regions which translate to peaceful co-existence among the cross-border communities. It is also important to promote Inter-communal peace agreements such as the Peace accord between Pokot and Marakwet to stop cattle rustling.
Implementing Climate change Peace dividend Initiatives. One practical way to begin addressing climate change within peace building process is the emphasis on implementing peace dividend projects. Already many projects are being implemented in the Arid and Semi-Arid regions (ASAL) by the National Drought Management Authority with support from the government and development partners. Together with the civil society, the government should continue investing in small but quick impact tangible peace dividend projects to consolidate peace and act as development catalysts. Use of peace dividends can assist in providing incentives for peace through shared improvements to resilience.
Climate change and conflict are both disasters that Kenya continues to face. The two disasters influence each other in a negative synergy: Climate change contributes to the potential for conflict, and conflict impedes or hampers the ability of communities to cope with the effects of climate change. Conversely, the peaceful use of shared natural resources is posited to facilitate more effective climate change adaptation and strengthen resilience. It is therefore critical that mechanisms that seek to address the twin disasters need to include both climate change and peace indicators in their design. The inclusion of natural resources such as land or water in the peace agreements either local, national, across countries need to be addressed. This needs to be followed by provisions in the peace agreements on how this should be implemented.