Climate change aggravates conflict, terrorism: UN chief

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary General Antonio GuterresFile

United Nations, Dec 10: Climate change is “an aggravating factor” for instability, conflict and terrorism, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday.

The U.N. Chief said the regions that are most vulnerable to climate change “also suffer from insecurity, poverty, weak governance and the scourge of terrorism.” Guterres told a U.N. Security Council meeting on the link between climate change, conflict and terrorism that when climate disruptions hinder the ability of government institutions to provide public services, “it fuels grievances and mistrust towards authorities.”

And when the impact of climate change leads to people losing livelihoods, “the promises of protection, income and justice -- behind which terrorists sometimes hide their truce designs -- become more attractive,” he said.

In Africa's Lake Chad basin region, Guterres said, the extremist group Boko Haram has been able to gain new recruits, “particularly from local communities disillusioned by a lack of economic opportunities and access to essential resources.” “In central Mali, terrorist groups have exploited the growing tensions between herders and farmers to recruit new members from pastoralist communities, who often feel excluded and stigmatized,” the secretary-general said.

In Iraq and Syria, Islamic State extremists have “exploited water shortages and taken control of water infrastructure to impose its will on communities” he said, while in Somalia charcoal production has been a source of income for the al-Shabab extremist group.

Guterres said that “climate impacts compound conflicts and exacerbate fragility,” adding that U.N. Peacekeeping or political missions are in eight of the 15 countries most exposed to climate risks. He did not name the countries.

The U.N. Chief urged collective action to address the root causes of insecurity, stressing that “conflicts and terrorism do not take place in a vacuum.”

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