Floods, Displacement and Violence in South Sudan

Oct 27, 2022

Stresses brought about by climate change – including record-breaking droughts, floods and heat extremes – are an important driver of internal displacement in the Global South. The impact that displacement in turn has on conflict dynamics is amplified in fragile states, where political instability and poor governance undermine climate resilience, impede humanitarian support and pave the way for communal friction.

A prime example is South Sudan, reeling from its recent civil war, where four consecutive years of historic flooding have exacerbated food and livelihood insecurity. Rising waters have sent pastoralists fleeing south, where their presence has increased tensions and contributed to violence in the Equatoria region.

How Climate Change Fuels Deadly Conflict

Dec 9, 2021

This explainer details our understanding of the links between climate and conflict. The relationship of climate change to deadly violence is a complex one – which is precisely why we believe the Council should engage, not avoid, the subject. The resolution's main provisions include systematic UN analysis of climate risks to peace and security, more attention to climate change by peacekeeping and diplomatic missions, the sharing of data and building platforms to provide “real-time” information. These are unmitigated goods, regardless of how one views the exact nature of the climate-conflict nexus.

Getting Conflict into the Global Climate Conversation

Nov 5, 2021

World leaders are meeting in Glasgow to talk about what to do to ameliorate the mounting climate crisis. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts Ulrich Eberle and Andrew Ciacci explain why these discussions cannot neglect questions of war and peace.

Can the UNSC Agree on a Climate Security Resolution?

Oct 20, 2021

UN Security Council members are negotiating over a draft resolution on climate security, which, if it passes, will be the first of its kind. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts Ashish Pradhan, Ulrich Eberle and Richard Gowan explain what is at stake in the talks

CEP working paper, 2020

2020 Doctoral Thesis Award HEC Lausanne

This study investigates the impact of dams on local conflict across the world with georeferenced location information on dams and conflict events for the years 1989 to 2016. The identification strategy exploits exogenous variation in the river gradient to instrument for endogenous dam placement. The results document strong and robust evidence for an increase in intrastate conflict in the immediate vicinity of newly-built dams, but no robust effect for interstate conflict can be identified. Examining the mechanisms, ethnically polarized and fractionalized regions are more likely to experience the negative economic consequences as well as a surge in violence associated with dams. Further, countries with low levels of political competition are subject to more violence, suggesting that an institutional failure to account for local preferences may lead to violent confrontations. Finally, the policy analysis reveals that organizations providing the funding for dams, usually international financial institutions, have effective tools such as transboundary water treaties to prevent an outbreak of violence by enforcing regulation and monitoring during the implementation phases of dams.

with Dominic Rohner and Mathias Thoenig

CEPR, ESOC working papers, 2020

CEPR VoxTalks podcast; mentioned in the Development and a Changing Climate blog by the World Bank

This paper investigates the impact of climate shocks on violence between herders and farmers by using geolocalized data on conflict events for all African countries over the 1997-2014 period. We find that a +1 degree Celsius increase in temperature leads to a +54% increase in conflict probability in mixed areas populated by both farmers and herders, compared to +17% increase in non-mixed areas. This result is robust to controlling for the interaction between temperature and ethnic polarization, alternative estimation techniques, disaggregation levels, and coding options of the climatic/conflict/ethnic variables. We then quantify the impact on conflicts of projected climate change in 2040. We find that, in absence of mixed population areas, global warming would increase total annual conflicts by about a quarter in whole Africa; when factoring in the magnifying effect of mixed settlements, total annual conflicts are predicted to rise by as much as a third. We also provide two pieces of evidence that resource competition is a major driver of farmer-herder violence. Firstly, conflicts are much more prevalent at the fringe between rangeland and farmland - a geographic buffer of mixed usage that is suitable for both cattle herding and farming but is particularly vulnerable to climate shocks. Secondly, information on groups' mobility reveals that temperature spikes in the ethnic homeland of a nomadic group tend to diffuse its fighting operations outside of its homeland, with a magnified spatial spread in the case of conflicts over resources. Finally, we show that violence is substantially reduced in the presence of policies that empower local communities, foster participatory democracy, enforce property rights and regulate land dispute resolution.

with J. Vernon Henderson, Dominic Rohner and Kurt Schmidheiny

Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 2020

Summary via VOX. Media coverage: myScience, ScienceDaily, Phys, LA Network, ERR (in Estonian), Unibas (in German)

This article shows that higher ethnolinguistic diversity is associated with a greater risk of social tensions and conflict, which, in turn, is a dispersion force lowering urbanization and the incentives to move to big cities. We construct a worldwide dataset at a fine-grained level on urban settlement patterns and ethnolinguistic population composition. For 3,540 provinces of 170 countries, we find that increased ethnolinguistic fractionalization and polarization are associated with lower urbanization and an increased role for secondary cities relative to the primate city of a province. These striking associations are quantitatively important and robust to various changes in variables and specifications. We find that democratic institutions affect the impact of ethnolinguistic diversity on urbanization patterns.