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Conflict, climate change and politics: Why a techno-centric approach fails the resilience challenge

Research reports

Written by Simon Levine, Katie Peters, Lilianne Fan

The response to climate change is often presented as an issue beyond politics, to be guided only by science and technical considerations. However, many of the places that need the most urgent international support for adaptation and resilience are suffering from conflict or have underlying political tensions which make future conflict a real threat. Yet discussions of conflict are usually absent from the plans to support resilience to climate change even in these conflict prone areas.

This paper uses three case studies to look at the role of political analysis in analysis of climate change impacts.

  • The first, on Aceh, shows how inattention to the political legacy of a recent conflict can undermine well-intentioned and technically sound environmental or climate mitigation programmes;
  • The second, on East Africa, explores what might happen when the political sophistication of those writing climate change strategies is not matched by those reading and supporting them;
  • The third, on Darfur, looks at whether conflicts can be analysed directly through links to climate change and resource scarcity.

Together, the three case studies show that, when disciplines are used techno-centrically and in the absence of sophisticated political analysis, there are significant risks that interventions designed to support resilience may in fact do more harm than good.

Simon Levine, Katie Peters and Lilianne Fan