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Integrating climate change into peacebuilding

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Peacebuilding countries are concentrated in areas of heightened vulnerability to climate change impacts, and almost certainly lack the capacity to manage these impacts. In spite of this overlap, climate change adaptation and mitigation projects are typically excluded from peacebuilding activities. This is particularly alarming given that many analysts believe climate change will trigger, amplify or perpetuate humanitarian crises, population displacement, political extremism and violent conflict in the regions in which most peacebuilding operations take place. This paper investigates opportunities for integrating climate change into peacebuilding. It identifies three obstacles to this integration—the lack of climate change tools and policies that can be easily introduced into typical peacebuilding programming; the skepticism and complacency of the donor community; and tensions between the objectives and timeframes of peacebuilding and those of climate change response. The paper then examines opportunities to integrate climate change into four principal programmatic areas of peacebuilding—socio-economic recovery, politics and governance, security and rule of law, and human rights—and concludes that more attention needs to be given to these opportunities in order to build resilience and reduce the likelihood of more daunting and costly challenges in the future.

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  1. Statements about practitioner views throughout this article are based on data collected through direct field observation when the author was a participant-observer on peacebuilding missions in Rwanda and Sierra Leone. This data was gathered on a not for attribution basis.

  2. REDD, which originated in 2005, seeks to protect forests. Since that time, elaborations have evolved: REDD+ in 2007 focused on ensuring that local communities and indigenous people were not hurt by sustainable forest management and conservation practices; in 2009 REDD++ emerged to protect low carbon, high biodiversity lands from being transformed into agricultural lands because of REDD protecting other areas from conversion.


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Correspondence to Richard Matthew.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on “Climate and Security: Evidence, Emerging Risks, and a New Agenda” edited by François Gemenne, Neil Adger, Jon Barnett, and Geoff Dabelko.

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Matthew, R. Integrating climate change into peacebuilding. Climatic Change 123, 83–93 (2014).

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