Terrorism thrives in climate change wastelands, UN hears

UAE, France, Niger and others say climate change and terrorism are often part of same problem

Mohamed Abushahab, the UAE’s deputy ambassador to the UN, told council members the 'nexus between climate change and terrorism and extremism calls for action'. Reuters
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The UAE joined France, Niger and other countries on Thursday in a push to the UN Security Council to connect climate change to international security threats such as terrorism.

Niger, which holds the council's rotating presidency in December, urged members to pass a draft resolution on climate change and terrorism, but faced opposition from Russia, China and others.

The UN says armed extremist groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram and Al Shabab thrive in communities stricken by drought and other harsh climatic conditions, where joblessness and despair leave people vulnerable to hardliners.

Mohamed Abushahab, the UAE’s deputy ambassador to the UN, told council members the “nexus between climate change and terrorism and extremism calls for action”.

“Even if indirect, there is a connection between climate impacts from migration to unemployment, and the feelings of helplessness, resentment and loss of faith in governance systems that contribute to terrorist recruitment,” Mr Abushahab said.

Some regions have already seen desertification and other harsh climatic conditions nudging people towards extremism, creating “pockets of unstable territory that are springboards for terrorist attacks”, he said.

ISIS extremists exploited grievances over water shortages and took control of supplies to impose the group’s hard-line views on communities across Iraq and Syria, UN chief Antonio Guterres said.

In drought-ravaged Somalia, Al Shabab militants used taxes on charcoal exports to buy guns and finance their war against the Horn of Africa nation’s UN-backed government, the secretary general added.

“Climate change is not the source of all ills, but it has a multiplier effect and is an aggravating factor for instability, conflict and terrorism,” Mr Guterres told diplomats.

Boko Haram militants have swollen their ranks with recruits who otherwise struggle to find jobs in the impoverished Lake Chad region of Central Africa, he said.

“When the loss of livelihoods leaves populations in despair, the promises of protection, income and justice … become more attractive,” Mr Guterres said.

Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum said the 15-nation council needed an “integrated and co-ordinated approach” to gathering data to better understand the effects of climate change.

The landlocked West African country’s draft resolution asks the UN “to integrate climate-related security risk as a central component into comprehensive conflict-prevention strategies".

Although countries voiced support for the resolution, Russia was prepared to veto the draft document, saying it would cause confusion and overlap with other forums dealing with global warming.

“A direct link between terrorism and climate change is far from obvious,” said Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia.

The UAE spoke at Thursday’s meeting but could not vote, as it will only become a seat-holding and voting member of the council for a two-year term starting in January.

Updated: December 09, 2021, 11:28 PM