Daily life in the IDP village in Mopti, Mali. Photo by UN Photo/Marco Dormino.
After a sincere welcome and introduction by Susanne Schmeier (IHE Delft), the topic was opened by Henk Ovink, Dutch Water Envoy. His keynote underlined how a sound understanding of the complex relationship between natural resources, climate change and conflict is a prerequisite for addressing local vulnerabilities.
Dr Karen Meijer (Deltares) proceeded with a presentation of the Water, Peace and Security (WPS) approach and its application to the Inner Niger Delta in Mali. The approach links both water, energy and food nexus elements with peacebuilding knowledge as well as data and science with policy and practice. The application has already yielded first insights about local drivers of conflict and other human responses to changes in people’s livelihoods; the analysis will be expanded within GIZ’s Frexus project and shall also be replicated in other areas in the Niger River and Lake Chad Basins, such as Niger and Chad.
Dr Kaveh Madani (Yale University) shared very interesting insights from water, energy and food security challenges in Iran. He pointed out that abundance of a natural resource – such as energy, being easily available in many countries of the MENA region – can severely impact the balance of the sectors, lead to the overexploitation of one more more resources (such as water) and potentially threaten national security. For the panel discussion, he was joined by Catherine Wong (United Nations Development Programme), Michel Rademaker (The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies), and Dr M. Ghali Ahmed (Lake Chad Basin Commission).
Looking, amongst others, at the challenges in the Lake Chad basin, most panellists agreed that more research is required to understand the interactions between natural resources, climate change and conflicts, but also between different communities and sectors (water, energy, agriculture, security, and others). While knowledge about these complexities has been growing lately, actors can and should not be overconfident – many variables remain uncertain and predictions about local developments remain difficult.
Reacting appropriately to these developments under uncertainty seems to be the key challenge for policy makers. The panellist discussed how policies can prevent or mitigate conflicts – both directly a the local level and through the engagement of the international community. Accordingly, findings must lead to concrete actions, mobilising politicians across local, regional, national and international levels, as well as actors across the silos of natural resource and security communities. This comes with an urgent need for both compelling narratives and effective action for doing so.
The security sector increasingly has to include climate change into its intelligence, mission preparation, and institutional frameworks. Parallel to this, some speakers stressed that cooperation between civil society and military actors is crucial for successful missions, noting also that this was easy to say, yet hard to implement on the ground.
Susanne Schmeier and Alexandre Mesnil (GIZ) wrapped up the session, noting that there were appealing local solutions adapted to local circumstances, also highlighting that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Both further research and concrete action on the ground are needed in order to prevent or mitigate conflicts over water, energy and food resources and instead benefit from water, energy and food as resources for peace.