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Research Brief No. 1: Can Political Institutions Avert Violence from Climate Change?

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From the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law

Executive Summary

Climate change is likely to cause floods, droughts, and migration in Africa that could trigger political instability. But violent consequences are not inevitable. Domestic political institutions– “constitutional design”–could buffer the impact of climate change by channeling societal stress into non-violent outcomes. This research on Constitutional Design and Conflict Management (CDCM) in Africa explores which institutions are likely to moderate–or exacerbate–the impact of climate change. Seven leading scholars investigate seven African countries to identify how past climate-related and other shocks have been mediated by constitutional design. The project aims to develop policy recommendations to reduce violent conflict in Africa. Specifically, the CDCM research will pinpoint African countries that are especially vulnerable to political instability. It will also identify the political institutions that the U.S. government should promote through its democracy and governance aid programs to minimize the security consequences and human suffering that could result from climate change in Africa.