"Human security focus needed in effective action for climate and conflict-vulnerable communities"

ICRC Statement to Security Council Open Debate: Addressing climate-related risks to international peace and security through mitigation and resilience building.
Statement 23 February 2021

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) appreciates today's timely debate held at the initiative of the UK Presidency and chaired by his excellency Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Last September, ICRC President Peter Maurer briefed the Security Council under the presidency of Niger on the humanitarian effects of environmental degradation on peace and security. He told the Council that many resilient communities in some of the ICRC's largest operations now walk on a "tightrope of survival" – facing the cumulative pressure of armed conflict, climate change, environmental degradation, and displacement. Today, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has added another layer to the challenges faced by conflict-affected communities.

People affected by armed conflict are disproportionately impacted by climate shocks and environmental degradation. This includes the 66 million people the ICRC estimates are currently living outside of regular governance systems, in areas controlled by non-state armed groups. Conflicts sharply increase the fragility of the institutions, essential services, infrastructure and governance that are critical for strengthening people's resilience to a changing climate and environment.

We must adapt. On this, we would like to share three observations and recommendations:

  1. Efforts to develop responses that meet the needs of the most vulnerable must go beyond hard security measures and encompass broader human security, such as the impacts from combined conflict, climate and environmental shocks on people's livelihoods, access to food, water and essential services. When discussing the impact of climate change on armed conflict, vulnerability and risk, having a broad understanding of the consequences of a changing climate on our collective security is key.

  2.  To be effective, adaptation and resilience efforts for many fragile states must be conflict-sensitive. Greater investment in preventative and anticipatory action in fragile states could ultimately limit the combined humanitarian consequences of climate change and armed conflict. For now, climate action is particularly weak in fragile and conflict-affected countries.

  3. Armed conflict often harms the natural environment, which further limits or hampers resilience and adaptation to climate change. Greater respect for international humanitarian law can limit environmental degradation, and thus reduce the harm and the risks that conflict-affected communities are exposed to, including because of climate change.

Thank you