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Africa lies at the frontlines of the unfolding climate and security crisis, Assistant Secretary-General Pobee tells Security Council





 New York, 12 October 2022



Mesdames et Messieurs, 

Je voudrais remercier le Gabon d'avoir organisé ce débat et son Excellence, le Ministre des Affaires étrangères Michaël Moussa-Adamo, pour sa présidence de cette réunion, qui est opportune et importante.

The climate emergency is a danger to peace. And although there is no direct link between climate change and conflict, climate change exacerbates existing risks and creates new ones.

Africa, the continent with the lowest total greenhouse gas emissions, is seeing temperatures rising faster than the global average. Africa lies at the frontlines of the unfolding crisis.

From Dakar to Djibouti, desertification and land degradation drive competition for resources and erode livelihoods and food security for millions.

In the greater Horn of Africa, a devastating drought is forcing families to move far from their homes. In the Sahel, conflicts over resources are intensifying.  Violent extremists are adeptly exploiting these for their own ends.

To support the African continent in addressing the impact of climate change on peace and security, we must act on multiple fronts. We can no longer afford to do business as usual.

Unquestionably, we need ambitious climate action, and accelerate the implementation of the Paris Agreement. We look to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh in November, an African-owned, African-focused COP, for meaningful commitments from the largest emitters. We cannot hope to achieve lasting peace if we do not meet our climate goals.

There are three additional priorities for action I would like to highlight today.

First, we need to increase our capacity for risk analysis and integrate a climate lens into our conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding efforts.

This requires more and better data. With the help of innovation partners, we are tapping into new tools to better understand climate projections and trends, in order to reinforce our analytical and early warning capacity.

In Central Africa, for instance, we are working to develop a satellite-powered dashboard to give new insights into water availability and have better understanding of the intersection of transhumance, climate change and conflict.

This kind of work would not be possible without Climate, Peace and Security Advisors deployed in climate vulnerable regions to boost the capacity of UN field missions.

Both our analysis and our resulting engagement must become more regionally-focused. Climate change knows no borders. Its implications for peace and security tend to be most prominent in borderland areas, which require cross-border resource-sharing or human mobility. Yet, existing peacebuilding efforts are often entirely based on single countries rather than reflective of this regional dimension.

It is time we change that. In Central Africa our regional office, UNOCA, earlier this year completed an assessment of the implications of climate change for peace and security across the region. Among its recommendations, the assessment stressed the need for systematic collaboration, cooperation and partnership on climate security at the subregional level. To this end, efforts to develop a shared subregional vision and governance framework to institutionalize joint responses and interventions in the subregion in the short, medium, and long term are needed. The office is now working with partners to support the development of a sub-regional climate change strategy by the Economic Community of Central African States.

And in West Africa, the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel is working closely with the Economic Community of West African States on good practices to prevent herder-farmer conflicts region-wide, including through land tenure reform and public communication.

Second, our efforts to deliver peace and security must place people at the centre. We need to learn from those who experience daily, the consequences of climate change and leverage their expertise to develop effective climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Women are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts. But they are also crucial agents of change. They often possess unique knowledge that can help decrease tensions and strengthen social cohesion, leading to more sustainable peace outcomes that benefit people.  

In Niger, for instance, the Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund has supported local land committees accompanied by women mediators that have helped resolve community conflicts related to land use and management of natural resources.

Youth, too, are key stakeholders driving innovative climate and peacebuilding action. We see their activism across Africa and have heard their testimony in this Chamber. The actions we take today to address the linkages between climate change, peace and security will shape their future.

Third, we must seize opportunities for climate action and peacebuilding to reinforce each other.

The Secretary-General has emphasized this repeatedly.

Peacebuilding and climate action share many of the same objectives, namely resilient, just, and inclusive societies. Coherent policies are good for climate and for peace.

In this connection, the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel is expanding its capacity to advise partners on conflict sensitive climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. This engagement will help develop the mechanisms to ensure that investment in adaptation and resilience reaches those most vulnerable and affected by conflict.

The Peacebuilding Fund, too, is increasingly adopting a climate lens: Since 2017 the Fund has invested over USD 85 million in more than 40 climate-sensitive projects.  

A review of Fund projects currently underway will provide valuable direction for future efforts.


Vital to this ambitious agenda are multi-dimensional partnerships that connect the work of the United Nations, regional organizations, Member States, international financial institutions, civil society, the private sector, as well as international and local researchers.

The United Nations is committed to expanding existing partnerships and forging new ones.

We have established within our own system, the Climate Security Mechanism - a joint initiative between the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, the Department of Peace Operations, the UN Environment Programme and the UN Development Programme - to more systematically address climate, peace and security risks.

Delivering on a commitment of international collaboration is a significant undertaking. It will require all of us to work together, in new and unprecedented ways.    

We look to affected countries and regions to guide us in these efforts.

Africa’s leadership is essential.

Our response today does not match the magnitude of the challenge we are facing.

Let us move faster. We look forward to more partnerships and collaboration at all levels.

Je vous remercie.