Responding to climate-related security risks: Are regional organizations in Asia and Africa ready?

The transnational character of climate-related security risks often goes beyond the capacity of national governments to respond adequately. As such, it creates challenges for and increases the relevance of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). It is, therefore, not only important to understand the climate-related security risks that regions are experiencing but also to analyze how regional IGOs are developing their capacities to deal with these risks.

A newly published study by the Stockholm International Peace research Institute, SIPRI, shows that, in various ways, climate-related security risks have found their way into the policy frameworks and institutional discourse of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC); and two in Africa, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Climate-related security risks have been identified as a growing concern for policymakers across all four of the IGOs considered in the study.

Some organizations, such as SAARC and IGAD, have been concerned with climate security for several decades. In the case of IGAD, climate-related security risks in the form of droughts were part of the very reason it was established. Other organizations, such as ASEAN, identify climate-related security risks as a direct challenge to their mandate to promote prosperity and stability in the South East Asian region. The regional security context and the vulnerability to climate change thereby both affect the framing of these risks. For example, ASEAN and SAARC have a strong emphasis on disaster management, stemming from the fact that their member states are located in areas of the globe exposed to natural disasters.

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