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Climate, peace, security and migration in Mozambique

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Picture: Freepik – Climate-related extreme weather events and conflict are making their mark globally, co-occurring and reinforcing each other in a vicious circle, complicating efforts to build and sustain peace, the writers says.

By Gracsious Maviza, Thea Synnestvedt, Giulia Caroli, Joram Tarusarira and Niklas Sax

Climate-related extreme weather events and conflict are making their mark globally, co-occurring and reinforcing each other in a vicious circle, complicating efforts to build and sustain peace. In Southern Africa, Mozambique is a prime example of how the adverse effects of climate change interact with conflict, fragility and displacement in multifaceted ways, eroding social capital and social cohesion and even making conflict dynamics more pronounced and intractable.

As the impacts of climate change become clearer, the consequences for peace and security have become a key concern for policymakers and practitioners. The adverse impacts of climate variability, extremes and environmental degradation exacerbate the causes and effects of conflict and undermine efforts to build and sustain peace.

While these dynamics are highly context-specific, they tend to emerge in fragile and conflict-affected settings (FCASs) where communities struggle to sustain resilient food, land, and water systems (FLWSs). Livelihood challenges and rising food, fertiliser, and input prices are further compounded by climate change and unsustainable resource use, poor governance, and weak social cohesion.

Understanding the context

Mozambique is highly vulnerable to climate-induced disasters, the most prominent being cyclones, floods and droughts. It is characterised by rising average temperatures coupled with a downward trend in rainfall and an increase in dry conditions.

Droughts, flooding and tropical cyclones have led to loss of lives and adversely affect food, land, water systems, housing and other infrastructure. These effects negatively impact rural and remote livelihoods, worsening poverty trends and food insecurity. Climate change negatively impacts access to and availability of natural resources, affecting local natural resource-based livelihoods.

This is especially consequential to small-scale farmers and rural communities who rely heavily on climate-sensitive agriculture for their food security. Furthermore, conflict and violence perpetrated by non-state armed groups in Cabo Delgado compound this situation, leading to mass displacement and/or forced migration, disruption of livelihoods and economic activities, and a lack of access to basic services. Although the security situation is improving in some areas of Cabo Delgado, decades of under-investment and under-development, weak public services and infrastructures, and democratic fragility make it challenging for governmental and humanitarian actors to reach the most affected populations. This is an issue that is becoming particularly challenging after the occurrences of climate hazards and is opening windows of opportunity for non-state actors to increase their legitimacy by acting as alternative relief providers.

While conflict remains the prime driver of displacement, intensifying climate extremes and natural hazards alter and further exacerbate patterns of fragility and displacement. For instance, the double landfall of Tropical Cyclone Freddy in February and March 2023 devastated the country, destroying infrastructure and displacing approximately 184,000 people.

Overall, Mozambique hosts more than 31,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, with more than one million people being displaced internally due to violence perpetrated by non-state armed groups and the devastating impact of the climate crisis. Most of them are children (54 percent), followed by women (24 percent) and men (21 percent).

The ramifications of climate change, coupled with fragility, conflict and displacement, undermine the local peace and security landscape. The immediate destruction of infrastructure limits food and water supplies and access to markets, impacting the general health and well-being of the affected populations. These compounding vulnerabilities and the conflict potential, ranging from small-scale household tensions to armed conflict, alter social cohesion.

Given the increasing co-occurrence of climate change, displacement, and fragility, understanding the ways in which these stressors and shocks interact and reinforce each other to affect peace and security in the country is of foremost importance to develop durable solutions and build the resilience of forcibly displaced populations and host communities.

The Permanent Representative of Mozambique to the United Nations (UN) recently stressed the importance of advancing a responsive and evidence-based approach to these compounding risks and challenges, ranking the climate, peace, and security agenda as one of the top priorities of the Mozambique non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council (UNSC).

The ramifications of climate change, coupled with fragility, conflict and displacement, undermine the local peace and security landscape

Climate, Peace, Security and Migration risks

Climate-related risks interlink with peace and conflict in Mozambique in multifaceted ways, making responding to insecurity a challenging task. Many actors on both local and regional levels are working to support local communities to build resilience against climate security risks.

To promote knowledge sharing and collaboration across sectors and build the evidence base regarding climate security in Mozambique, a workshop was held on the 20th and 21st of September 2023. The workshop was organised by the CGIAR FOCUS Climate Security team at the Alliance of Biodiversity International and CIAT, ACCORD and the Ministry of Land and Environment, and co-convened by UNHCR and the Belgian and Swiss embassies.

The aim was to work towards a common vision for climate, peace, security and migration in Mozambique. An assessment of the manifestations of risks related to the interplay between climate, conflict and displacement and peace and security dynamics highlighted four main pathways. These are resource access and availability, livelihood and food security, disaster and conflict displacement and negative social behaviour.

Resource Access and Availability

Climate variability impacts the availability and access to resources. Changes in resources such as land and water contribute to competition and affect local power relations. Weak governance of natural resources increases the risk of conflict.

Particularly, the issue of insecure land tenure rights has led to evictions and tensions over competing claims. But also, climate mitigation projects such as conservation areas, rare earth mining or biofuel farming have been increasing tensions when not implemented in a conflict-sensitive manner.

Livelihood and Food Insecurity

Climate change adversely impacts agricultural production and erodes rural livelihoods, leading to loss of livelihoods and food insecurity. Losing livelihoods induces poverty, inequality and food insecurity, competition over resources, price hikes compounding instability, livelihood-related grievances and conflicts.

Disaster and Conflict Displacement

Climate and conflict dynamics interlink with displacement in complex, dynamic and non-linear ways. Due to floods for example, crops are submerged, livestock lost, bridges, communication networks destroyed, and land degraded. These impacts result in loss of livelihoods, resource scarcity and fragility, which affect human security, and spatial and temporal realities of displaced communities.

Negative Social Behaviour

Climate change interacts with conflict dynamics and ongoing hostilities, thereby contributing to social tensions and negative social behaviours, including the strategies and tactics of armed groups. Negative social behaviour due to climate-related grievances erodes social cohesion and increases the risk of tension and conflict.

Environmental destruction is closely linked to conflict-affected areas, yet climate-oriented finance often fails to target these areas due to high risk

A common vision

Mozambique has an evident interaction of climatic stressors and shocks with conflict as drivers of fragility and displacement. These adverse impacts affect large parts of the Mozambican population, leading to unfavourable societal transformations with gendered impacts and a depletion of social cohesion and peace outcomes.

To address these compounding challenges, stakeholders of the workshop worked out the following recommendations as key action points towards building a common vision for climate, peace, security, and migration in Mozambique:

Improving the evidence base

One of the key messages proffered by stakeholders was the need for evidence-based cross-sectoral collaboration to promote preventative and responsive measures to lay the foundations for peace and security for all people living in Mozambique. Climate-driven security risks are projected to increase in future.

More climate data enables improved predictions of future climate-driven risk, which allows for enhanced preventative and early warning mechanisms that help to tackle immediate shocks. Data on conflict and social tensions also allows for enhanced peace processes and the development of conflict-sensitive initiatives such as climate adaptation programmes.

Gender-sensitive, intersectional approaches

Gender dynamics play a key role in shaping vulnerabilities and opportunities. Yet, without adequate data, these dynamics remain invisible. As such, improved understanding and targeted programmes are essential. Utilising gender-sensitive methodologies can effectively address power imbalances and vulnerabilities unique to specific genders while strategically directing investments for maximum impact.

Additionally, women’s leadership in managing land, food and water systems places them as key actors in building resilient food systems. Capturing such opportunities will be an important factor in tackling climate and conflict-related risks. More data regarding other forms of intersectional dis/advantages will enhance understanding and help improve governance and decision-making in relation to the intersectional implications of climate security.

Policymaking and planning is key

The policy landscape shapes how we respond to crises. Currently, climate and peace-oriented measures are often treated as separate entities, dealt with in silos. However, integrating the two can enable improved decision-making in crisis situations, for example, when addressing displacement, an illustrative example of how the two interact to form compounding vulnerabilities.

To build capabilities on a national, regional and global level, it is imperative to enhance the knowledge base for improved climate security-oriented decision-making and ensure a joined-up approach. Place-based, national and regional solutions are needed to tackle climate security and human mobility-related insecurities that continue to persist.

Finance to develop and support policies and plans

There is a need to change the current narrative that climate adaptation and peacebuilding programmes do not interact. Integrating the two broadens the scope for finance and action. Environmental destruction is closely linked to conflict-affected areas, yet climate-oriented finance often fails to target these areas due to high risk. Improved understanding of the dynamics between climate and conflict enables targeted programmes that can operate within conflict zones.

It is important that the communities most affected by climate change are not the ones excluded from financial initiatives. Improving the human security situation in Mozambique requires mechanisms that work to tackle both immediate shocks as well as to build resilience in the long-term.

Gracsious Maviza is a gender, migration and climate security scientist at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, one of the research institutes at CGIAR. Thea Synnestvedt is a climate security Visiting Researcher at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and a Human Security MSc Student at Aarhus University, Denmark. Giulia Caroli is a climate, peace and security specialist at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, one of the research institutes at CGIAR. Joram Tarusarira is a climate security research associate at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, one of the research institutes at CGIAR, and an assistant professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Niklas Sax is a climate, peace and security Consultant at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, one of the research institutes at CGIAR.

The CGIAR FOCUS Climate Security team are working not only in Mozambique but on a global level to enhance climate security evidence, policy, programming and finance.

This article was published on ACCORD