Skip to content

Nordic Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Effects of Environmental Degradation

17.09.2020  16:23
Nordic Joint Statement submitted by Ambassador Martin Bille Hermann at the High-Level Open Debate of the UN Security Council on the Humanitarian Effects of Environmental Degradation and Peace and Security

set text

Mr President,

Members of the Security Council,

I have the pleasure to submit this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and my own country, Denmark. We are pleased to see the Council paying sustained attention to the peace and security dynamics associated with climate change and welcome today’s opportunity to speak to the issue of humanitarian effects of environmental degradation.

Climate change is a risk multiplier. The security implications and human cost of climate change are becoming increasingly evident, while the presence of armed conflict weakens communities’ coping mechanisms in the face of climate change. Environmental degradation and climate impacts deepen root causes of fragility, heighten tensions over scarce or deteriorating land and water resources, and constitute key drivers of food insecurity. Taken together, these factors risk triggering or worsening conflict, displacement and migration, reversing hard-won peacebuilding and development gains, and increasing the scope of humanitarian hardship, as seen in Yemen, DRC and South Sudan where millions of people are on the brink of famine. Climate change is also a key driver of biodiversity loss, which is one of the root causes of the current unprecedented health crisis and its derived effects for international peace and security.

We must therefore take urgent action to address climate-related security risks in a coherent and interlinked manner. Allow us to highlight three key elements:

First, a prerequisite for effective climate-sensitive conflict prevention and response is context-specific analyses. The UN must collaborate with governments, regional organizations, climate actors, including meteorological services, and civil society to improve early warning tools and conflict-forecasting models that systematically integrate climate information into conflict analyses and operational plans. The Climate Security Mechanism can play a supporting and coordinating role in this regard. We also need to see conflict analysis integrated into climate scenarios, as well as mitigation and adaptation efforts. And, we encourage efforts to mandate a regular comprehensive report by the Secretary-General on the climate-security nexus.

Second, sustainably addressing climate-related security risks requires increased investment in disaster risk reduction, preparedness to climate shocks, resilience work, adaptive capacities and strengthened conflict sensitivity across the entire system. To this end, fostering an integrated approach across the humanitarian-development-peacebuilding nexus is key; from the way we fund, to joint analyses, to the way we work on the ground. Continued support to protracted crises should be combined with a longer-term development-oriented approach. Climate change, environmental degradation and conflict need to be addressed in emergency response planning and implementation from the outset in order to more effectively mitigate their combined impact. In order to shift the emphasis from reactive to proactive responses, we need to invest in strategies for safeguarding ecosystem functions and services, as well as long-term sustainable food systems, social protection, skills development and job creation focused on building long-term community resilience in climate-sensitive and conflict-affected areas from which the most marginalized and vulnerable may otherwise be displaced or compelled to migrate. Good governance and strong and responsive institutions are also key to bolstering resilience to climate related security risks. UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction provide the blueprint for these efforts.


Third, although international humanitarian law prohibits deliberate attacks against the natural environment, causing severe damage to the natural environment and to the health of the population, such attacks persist. The Council already addresses issues related to conflict and natural resources, but could also serve as a platform that supplements ongoing international legal and policy discussions in a coherent framework, thus bridging the work in the ILC, ICRC, and UNEA, among others. In this regard, we welcome the ongoing work of the ILC on protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts, as well as the updating of the ICRC Guidelines for the Protection of the Natural Environment in Situations of Armed Conflict, as well as other recent initiatives.


We know that for climate change adaptation and conflict prevention strategies to be effective, they must be grounded in the needs and realities of affected populations. Women and girls are important actors for generating solutions and are often disproportionately affected by climate-related security risks. A rights-based multi-stakeholder approach that advances inclusive and meaningful participation for women, youth, indigenous peoples and marginalized groups must be central to the response.


In closing, addressing the climate-security nexus requires a system-wide approach, encompassing the entire UN family, bilateral donors, International Financial Institutions and non-governmental organizations. The intersection between climate change, fragility and conflict underscores the urgency of delivering in an integrated manner on the Paris Agreement, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustaining Peace Agenda.


Thank you.