Development of the new Kalobeyei Refugee Settlement near Kakuma Camp in Turkana County, Kenya.

Conflict and Governance

As climate variability increases, so will its potential to impact conflict and governance. Climate change will act as a “threat multiplier,” straining public resources, aggravating fragile situations, and potentially leading to violent conflict. Countries with weak governments will be particularly at risk, as governments may become overburdened by efforts to absorb the stresses and shocks associated with climate change.

In many poor countries, development promises jobs, housing, and economic opportunity. Climate impacts on land, food, and water will strain those efforts and create difficulties for governing bodies. Extreme weather events and disasters, sea-level rise and coastal degradation may all limit the ability of governments to provide basic services and protect their citizens. Inability or unwillingness of government institutions to manage the impacts of climate change may cause political unrest; at the same time, climate change adaptation and mitigation programming that do not take a conflict-sensitive approach have the potential to contribute to conflict dynamics, undermining the adaptation and mitigation aims they strive to achieve and risking serious harm to communities.

Building the capacity of local, regional, and national governments will allow them to take measured and timely steps to respond to climate change impacts. Improved planning and climate vulnerability assessments can give governments the tools to address issues posed by a changing climate proactively. Improved access to justice and strengthened conflict resolution mechanisms can offer citizens alternatives to violent conflict, and collaborative approaches to adaptation can bring communities together in ways that transcend political and social boundaries.

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USAID has been supporting countries in low-emissions long-term planning through its Transparency and Long-term Strategies (T-LTS) project.
This blog series features interviews with the winners of the 2020 Climatelinks Photo Contest. This photo, submitted on behalf of Peru’s USAID Pro-Bosques Activity, is available on the Climatelinks Photo Gallery.
“Climate change does not drive conflict in a vacuum but contributes to conflict in already fragile contexts and in combination with a number of other critical factors.” This is one of five themes to emerge from a literature review as reported in a new study, which critically assesses how peacebuilding programming can also produce adaptation benefits (and vice versa).