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AFRICA: Climate change threatens security in West and Sahel

Conflicts caused by the effects of climate change are imminent in West Africa and the Sahel. Tensions over scarce water resources could lead to wars if nothing is done urgently. The alert has been issued by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). For the sub-regional organization, the time has come to take concrete action to address the effects of climate change. 

Water wars could break out in West Africa and the Sahel. The countries of these regions are drastically affected by the rise in temperature with its corollaries, the drying up of surface water, rivers, lakes and wetlands, as well as the deepening of the water table and the loss of biodiversity. « Without livestock, vegetable gardens, and water points, people migrate to the few remaining small resources that have not been damaged by the drought. Once there, competition for access to water or livestock creates tensions that can inevitably degenerate into conflict, » explains Hadjia Zara Mamadou, president of the Association of Nigerien Women Against War and former mayor of Agadez.

Hadjia Zara Mamadou was taking part in the Regional Conference on Climate Change, Peace and Security in West Africa and the Sahel, which was held from 6 to 7 April 2022 in Dakar, Senegal. According to Philippe Zoungrana, the coordinator of the Regional Support Program for Natural Resource Management within the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), the countries most affected by climate change are located in the central Sahel. This is the case of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. In these West African countries, « there are more than 1.8 million internally displaced persons, due to drought. A situation that threatens security in the sub-region, » says Philippe Zoungrana.

2.3 billion dollars are needed

To address the impacts of climate change on security in West Africa and the Sahel, « ECOWAS has adopted a $2.3 billion priority action plan to fight terrorism, » said Francis Behanzin, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security. He called on ECOWAS member states for stronger political will and essential financial commitment from partners to mitigate the vulnerability of West Africa and the Sahel to insecurity problems.

For the seventh consecutive year, in 2021, the average global temperature has reached record highs. It has increased by more than 1°C compared to pre-industrial levels, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). A trend that should persist in the coming years, as predicted in the 6th report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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