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Climate, Peace and Security Fact Sheet Sahel (April 2021)

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The Sahel region is highly exposed to climate change, but national and local factors mean that climate change will have differentiated impacts across the region. The region will gradually become hotter, with some areas experiencing increased, but erratic, rainfall.

The immediate effects of these trends may include irregular seasons, droughts and floods. Interacting with social, economic and political factors, these could exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and increase the risk of violent conflict:

  • Changing rainfall and seasonal patterns can sometimes fuel and compound violent conflict over limited or unevenly distributed resources. Women and girls are especially vulnerable. Across the Sahel, climate change may increase the risk of clashes between herders and farmers over access water and pastures.
  • Rapid-onset disasters and long-term climate change may force people to temporarily or permanently move, sometimes joining people displaced by armed conflicts. Migration is an important adaptation strategy, but it can lead to conflict between host and migrant communities.
  • Disasters and climate change erode resilience, increasing the vulnerability of communities to predation by armed groups and manipulation by elites. Some armed groups recruit from communities whose livelihoods are affected by factors including climate change; and local militias can escalate farmer–herder conflicts.

Preventive responses – including environmental peacebuilding – can strengthen the resilience of internally displaced persons (IDPs), local communities and state institutions to climate peace and security risks. The inclusion of women and youth is especially important for shaping and delivering responses. Governments and civil society across the Sahel, together with regional and international partners, should integrate climate peace and security risks in their analyses, programming and operations, to prevent climate-related disputes from escalating, and armed groups and other actors from manipulating tensions for their own purposes.