29 April 2019

In their newly released Policy Summary: The Nexus of Fragility and Climate Risks published by USAID, Director of the Strauss Center’s State Fragility Initiative Ashley Moran, Strauss Distinguished Scholar Joshua Busby, Strauss Senior Fellow Clionadh Raleigh, and their colleagues present policy recommendations to address compound risks that arise when states experience fragility and climate risks simultaneously.

First, the authors highlight several key takeaways:

  • Fragility is an important dimension in understanding the indirect pathways between climate risks and potential conflict outcomes.
  • Compound fragility-climate risks can heighten insecurity, but conflict is context specific.
  • Multiple climate risks often affect the same populations and institutions in highly fragile states.
  • State legitimacy is poor in nearly all states with high compound fragility-climate risks.

Next, the authors present opportunities for action. They argue that addressing climate risks in fragile states could simultaneously enhance resilience and reduce fragility. They note that climate responses in fragile states will also be most effective when directed through spheres where the state has the strongest capacity to act. Efforts to prevent the emergence of new compound risks should focus on improving the capacity of moderately fragile states that have very high climate risks.

The authors summarize key findings of their research on compound risks that are pertinent for policy planning. For example, most highly fragile states have a large number of people and/or a significant portion of the population facing high climate risks. In some of these states, the population risk is concentrated in densely-populated areas, while in others the population risk is widely distributed across much of the state’s territory, presenting a different response challenge. Most of these states face not just one but multiple, overlapping climate risks. Notably, the highest combined fragility-climate risks are in Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. The authors highlight how these findings reveal patterns and trends in compound fragility-climate risks that present specific opportunities for development practitioners and for policy planners.

USAID also published Country Brief: Fragility and Climate Risks in Nigeria written by Moran, Busby, Raleigh, and former Strauss Center graduate research assistant Charles Wight. The brief reports: “Nigeria faces among the highest compound fragility-climate risks globally. It suffers from ongoing fragility and conflict that severely limit the state’s ability to respond to the country’s considerable climate risks…. This is a critical connection since environmental stress—coupled with government mismanagement of environmental and other stressors—contributes to instability the country now faces from food crises and land conflicts, risking a dangerous feedback loop between fragility and climate risks.” The brief details existing fragility and climate risks then explains the compound risks facing Nigeria. The team notes that Nigeria is pursuing climate actions through international frameworks for national adaptation planning. For these to be successful, however, “Nigeria must reduce fragility in all four [social, economic, political, and security] spheres, as addressing its climate challenges will require 1) resilience initiatives in the social and economic spheres, 2) effective political processes to serve as a conduit between public needs and state responses, and 3) a stable security environment in which to operate.”

USAID also recently published Country Brief: Fragility and Climate Risks in Colombia by Moran, Busby, Raleigh, and Wight. The brief reports: “Colombia experiences very high climate exposure concentrated in small portions of the country and high fragility stemming largely from persistent insecurity related to both longstanding and new sources of violence.” The brief details existing fragility and climate risks then explains the compound risks facing Colombia. The team notes that “Colombia’s experience highlights how, even in countries with strong effectiveness in some spheres, capacity deficits in the security sphere can undermine the government’s overall ability to implement policies focused on preparing for (even near-term) future risks. This is particularly evident on cross-cutting issues like climate change that require integrated planning across sectors. This underscores the need for a coordinated approach in states with high compound risks to focus on reducing interrelated fragility and climate risks, lest improvement in mitigating one risk be undermined by lack of improvement in the other.”