›October 30, 2007 // By Sean PeoplesOur notion of security has evolved in the years since September 11th, with increasing attention being given to understanding the underlying causes of conflict and state failure. Colin Kahl, an assistant professor in Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, argues that these underlying causes of conflict can include—but are not limited to—demographic change, environmental degradation, and poverty.
Conflict is not sparked in a political or social vacuum, however; intervening variables such as political institutions and state capacity also influence the likelihood of violence. Kahl examines the interconnectedness of these pressures in the chapter he contributed to Too Poor for Peace? Global Poverty, Conflict, and Security in the 21st Century, which was published recently by The Brookings Institution. In the podcast below, he discusses the evolving concept of security and offers policy recommendations for building resilience to conflict in developing nations.
Click here for a summary of Kahl’s recent presentation at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
›October 29, 2007 // By Rachel Weisshaar“What we’re changing is how we do business, not what we do. And it is true, in Africa our focus has been basically around three issues…the first is civil control of the military and defense reform, which we see as sort of two sides of the same coin. The second is military professionalization, and the third is capacity building. And those three things are the things that DOD has been focused on in Africa for the probably about the last 10 years. And those three things will continue to be DOD’s focus in the context of capacity building and the mission of the command,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Theresa Whelan, discussing the creation of AFRICOM, the U.S. military’s new Africa Command, with a group of foreign policy and security bloggers.
One issue Whelan expects AFRICOM to focus greater attention on is maritime security. She explained that several illicit maritime activities are hurting African economies and environments, including trafficking in people, weapons, and drugs; piracy, which has been on the rise recently; and illegal fishing—which can also damage coral reefs. “I think the World Bank did a study not too long ago—a couple of years ago—in which they found that…countries like Mozambique were losing in excess of a billion dollars a year in lost revenue from illegal fishing and also the destruction to their reefs—reef structures and also the depletion of their fishing resources,” said Whelan. A full transcript of the October 24, 2007, discussion is available online.
›October 26, 2007 // By Rachel WeisshaarNicaragua is currently struggling to cope with the effects of a double environmental disaster. In September 2007, Hurricane Felix tore through the country’s impoverished northern Caribbean region, killing more than 100 people, leaving 220,000 homeless, and destroying vast amounts of agricultural land and forests.
But that wasn’t all. Fifty days of heavy rains—starting just before the hurricane hit—have continued the destruction, causing flooding in large areas of the country’s Pacific regions. In response, President Daniel Ortega’s government declared a state of national disaster on October 19. SINAPRED, Nicaragua’s disaster relief agency, estimates that the rains destroyed the homes of another 216,000 people.
The international response has been rapid, with numerous countries, international agencies, and NGOs sending aid to Nicaragua. But Laura de Clementi, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization representative to Nicaragua, warns that unless seeds are quickly purchased, distributed, and planted, parts of the country could face severe food shortages in the coming months.
These natural disasters have an unnatural component, however, reports Inter Press Service: deforestation. Of the 8 million acres of forest in the country in 1950, only 3 million remain, according to the country’s Environment Ministry. Deforestation exacerbated the damage done by Hurricane Felix and the rains, increasing the level of soil erosion and boosting the likelihood of landslides. Ironically—and unfortunately—a government plan to reforest 60,000 hectares each year that began just before the hurricane hit has since been put on hold.
“Nicaragua is not to blame for the hurricanes and storms, but it is responsible for the destruction of its forests, which form a protective barrier. Rain causes greater damage to land stripped of its trees than to forested areas,” biologist and geographer Jaime Incer Barquero told IPS. Yet the people who cut down trees are often impoverished, possessing few other ways to earn a living. An effective plan to combat deforestation will need to establish alternative, environmentally sustainable livelihoods for Nicaragua’s poor communities. These sustainable ways of generating income would also bolster—rather than undermine—the country’s natural protections against disasters, contributing to the security of all Nicaraguans.
›October 25, 2007 // By Rachel Weisshaar
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently issued a “report card” for the Arctic, which warned that the polar ice cap is melting rapidly, and that air temperatures continue to rise. A brief sampling of stories covering the implications of this warming, melting Arctic.“Cold Rush: The Coming Fight for the Melting North,” in the September 2007 issue of Harper’s magazine (subscription required), offers a behind-the-scenes look at Canada’s uncharacteristically forceful assertions of its ownership of Arctic territory—particularly the storied Northwest Passage.
Canada is not the only country trying to gain an advantage in the North. The U.S. Coast Guard plans to establish a new base in Barrow, Alaska as early as the spring of 2008, reports the Associated Press. The base would monitor ship traffic in the Arctic waters, which is expected to increase as more areas remain free of ice for longer periods of time.
The Arctic’s rapidly changing climate is threatening cultural resources, as well as natural ones. Glenn Morris, a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, is leading a four-person team on a 3,000-mile expedition by kayak and dogsled to record the Inuit’s impressions of their rapidly changing environment. Morris wrote about the first stage of the expedition for the BBC; in the second and final stage, to be carried out in the summer of 2008, the team will kayak the Northwest Passage.
›October 19, 2007 // By Geoff Dabelko
Lots of talk around Washington these days of the U.S. intelligence community preparing a National Intelligence Estimate on climate change. Gordon Mitchell at the University of Pittsburgh’s Security Sweep points out that the pending Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (S. 1538) includes specific language calling for the National Intelligence Council to conduct such an estimate. While the bill is in line for debate on the Senate floor, some of you aficionados might like a look at the full text. Section 321 reads:
NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE.
(a) Requirement for National Intelligence Estimate-
(1) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in paragraph (2), not later than 270 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of National Intelligence shall submit to Congress a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the anticipated geopolitical effects of global climate change and the implications of such effects on the national security of the United States.
(2) NOTICE REGARDING SUBMITTAL- If the Director of National Intelligence determines that the National Intelligence Estimate required by paragraph (1) cannot be submitted by the date specified in that paragraph, the Director shall notify Congress and provide–
(A) the reasons that the National Intelligence Estimate cannot be submitted by such date; and
(B) an anticipated date for the submittal of the National Intelligence Estimate.
(b) Content- The Director of National Intelligence shall prepare the National Intelligence Estimate required by this section using the mid-range projections of the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change–
(1) to assess the political, social, agricultural, and economic risks during the 30-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act posed by global climate change for countries or regions that are–
(A) of strategic economic or military importance to the United States and at risk of significant impact due to global climate change; or
(B) at significant risk of large-scale humanitarian suffering with cross-border implications as predicted on the basis of the assessments;
(2) to assess other risks posed by global climate change, including increased conflict over resources or between ethnic groups, within countries or transnationally, increased displacement or forced migrations of vulnerable populations due to inundation or other causes, increased food insecurity, and increased risks to human health from infectious disease;
(3) to assess the capabilities of the countries or regions described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) to respond to adverse impacts caused by global climate change; and
(4) to make recommendations for further assessments of security consequences of global climate change that would improve national security planning.
(c) Coordination- In preparing the National Intelligence Estimate under this section, the Director of National Intelligence shall consult with representatives of the scientific community, including atmospheric and climate studies, security studies, conflict studies, economic assessments, and environmental security studies, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the Administrator of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Secretary of Energy, and the Secretary of Agriculture, and, if appropriate, multilateral institutions and allies of the United States that have conducted significant research on global climate change.
(1) AGENCIES OF THE UNITED STATES- In order to produce the National Intelligence Estimate required by subsection (a), the Director of National Intelligence may request any appropriate assistance from any agency, department, or other entity of the United State Government and such agency, department, or other entity shall provide the assistance requested.
(2) OTHER ENTITIES- In order to produce the National Intelligence Estimate required by subsection (a), the Director of National Intelligence may request any appropriate assistance from any other person or entity.
(3) REIMBURSEMENT- The Director of National Intelligence is authorized to provide appropriate reimbursement to the head of an agency, department, or entity of the United States Government that provides support requested under paragraph (1) or any other person or entity that provides assistance requested under paragraph (2).
(4) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS- There are authorized to be appropriated to the Director of National Intelligence such sums as may be necessary to carry out this subsection.
(e) Form- The National Intelligence Estimate required by this section shall be submitted in unclassified form, to the extent consistent with the protection of intelligence sources and methods, and include unclassified key judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate. The National Intelligence Estimate may include a classified annex.
(f) Duplication- If the Director of National Intelligence determines that a National Intelligence Estimate, or other formal, coordinated intelligence product that meets the procedural requirements of a National Intelligence Estimate, has been prepared that includes the content required by subsection (b) prior to the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of National Intelligence shall not be required to produce the National Intelligence Estimate required by subsection (a).
›October 17, 2007 // By Wilson Center StaffOn Friday, October 12, 2007, the Norwegian Nobel Committee chose the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore to receive the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their respective efforts to document and raise awareness of the effects of climate change.
Some observers are perplexed by the Committee’s decision to award a peace prize for work on an environmental issue. The Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP), however, has long been cognizant of the myriad ways in which the environment is linked to peace and conflict. Climate change is only one of many environmental issues—including water scarcity, pollution, deforestation, and natural resource exploitation—that can affect security.
This is the second time in three years that the Committee has awarded the Peace Prize to an environmentalist. 2004 winner Wangari Maathai and her Green Belt Movement were recognized for their efforts to develop sustainable livelihoods and empower women through tree planting and other environmental activities. In the latest issue of the ECSP Report, Maathai explains the close linkage between good governance, sustainability, and peace: “When we manage our resources sustainably and practice good governance we deliberately and consciously promote cultures of peace, which include the willingness to dialogue and make genuine efforts for healing and reconciliation…Whenever we fail to nurture these three themes, conflict becomes inevitable.”
ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko reflected on the Committee’s selection of Maathai—and its implications for the international community’s notions of peace and security—in several articles on leading environmental blog Gristmill. Dabelko’s words on Maathai’s selection still ring true: “Yet the criticism may miss the point by missing the widespread violence that goes on within states, violence that is not necessarily well-organized or by force of arms. The structural violence of poverty, corruption, and environmental degradation affects literally billions every day. The Nobel Prize rightly stretched the prior confines of the award and called attention to these ‘conflicts.’”
›October 16, 2007 // By Karen Bencala“Energy is a critical, yet hugely neglected, determinant of human health. Health is an important enough aspect of energy policy to deserve a much greater influence on decisions about our future personal, national, and global energy strategies….Energy is as important as any vaccine or medicine. 2 billion people currently lack access to clean energy: they live in energy poverty and insecurity. International institutions, such as the World Bank and WHO, have repeatedly failed to make the connection between energy and health in their country work,” writes Lancet editor Richard Horton in the journal’s September 15, 2007 issue.
A six-article series in The Lancet examines how energy use—or the lack thereof—affects human health. Providing needed data on the health and economic impacts of both energy use and energy scarcity, the series explores one of the many links between environment and human security. The series is available on The Lancet’s website (subscription required).
›October 12, 2007 // By Geoff Dabelko
At a recent conference at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, I had the chance to sit down with one of the most influential military voices on environmental security debates, Dr. Kent Hughes Butts. As both a professor of geography and a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, Dr. Butts has been at the center of the U.S. military’s efforts to grapple with the implications of environmental change. I asked Dr. Butts how he saw the field of environmental security (if we can call it a field) evolving over the last two decades.
Join the Conversation
- The Right IDEA: Engaging Decisionmakers on Family Planning in the Post-2015 World Wednesday, July 15, 2015
- Changing the World: How USAID’s 50 Years of Family Planning has Transformed People, Economies, and the Planet Friday, June 26, 2015
- The Hillary Doctrine: Sex & American Foreign Policy (Book Launch) Wednesday, June 24, 2015
- Gender Equality and the Sustainable Development Goals
- Cause and effect: how human activity is altering the environment – in pictures | Environment | The Guardian
- Earth Focus: Can Religion Save the Environment? | Pulitzer Center
- Vatican's justice leader highlights importance of 'investing in women' | World news | The Guardian
- 12 tools for communicating climate change more effectively | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian