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Climate and Conflict: a Double Disaster for the Poorest People

A special approach for fragile states
15 January 2010

Climate and Conflict: a Double Disaster for the Poorest People - ImageWhile world leaders have left Copenhagen with a totally inadequate ?climate agreement?, many glaciers in the Himalayas are melting, and many Africans face rising temperatures and increasing droughts. There is often insufficient knowledge and capacity to tackle these major problems. For countries involved in a civil war or those slowly recovering from a conflict situation, a double disaster is looming.

In the Dutch newspaper Trouw (January 6th, 2010) Mark van Dorp and Eric van de Giessen plead for a special approach for such fragile states like Sudan and Afghanistan, offering people in those countries more protection to climate change. This will prevent them from being hit by a double disaster.

At the climate summit in Copenhagen, rich countries have pledged 30 billion dollar ? mounting to 100 billion per year in 2020 ? to help developing countries adapt to the negative effects of climate change. Governments of developing countries can use these funds for building dams or for training farmers in growing more drought-resistant crops, for instance.

However, in countries involved in civil war these funds will probably not be spent well and wisely. Democratic principles, as adopted in many other countries in the world, do not function in fragile states as these governments are often not capable, nor willing, to protect the most vulnerable people. Other, more innovative ways have to be found, therefore, to tackle climate change in fragile states.

The billions of dollars that have been pledged in Copenhagen for adaptation to climate change should be spent efficiently, flexibly and transparently benefiting as much as possible from local organizations, knowledge and experiences.

A large part of it should be spent through humanitarian organizations, grassroots organizations as well as through churches or religious groups. These are often the only functioning institutional channels in these fragile states. Only by applying unusual and innovative approaches, people can avoid being hit by a double disaster of climate and conflict.

Mark van Dorp is a free-lance environmental economist and founder of consultancy firm DUVILLA. Eric van de Giessen is a human geographer, working at the Institute for Environmental Security.

Photograph: Piet Wit, CIMIC Operation (Civil-Military Cooperation), Uruzgan, Afghanistan 2007.

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