Mali is experiencing both rising insecurity and significant climate variability. Violent conflicts take place especially in Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu, Mopti, Ségou, and, increasingly, in southern and western regions. Over the past decades, the country has been exposed to substantial inter-annual and decadal rainfall variability as well as increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. In the future, climate change impacts will put significant additional pressure on natural resource-based livelihoods, gradually limiting people’s ability to adapt.
Focus on political and security developments
Outside Mali, attention has tended to focus on political and security developments in the wake of the military coup of August 2020, the announced withdrawal in 2022 of French troops from the Operation Barkhane counter-terrorism mission, and – most recently – alleged massacres of suspected jihadis by the Malian military and foreign mercenaries.
While in Mali, lead author Chitra Nagarajan talked to people about how they perceive the impacts of climate change in their lives.
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The many Malians who depend on the land for their livelihoods will need greater support as climate change impacts are felt more strongly. That means better information sharing to support conflict-sensitive climate adaption, more inclusive natural resource management, and support for climate-smart, conflict-sensitive agricultural practices. Where security forces are deployed in UN and other international missions, they should be able to help populations to adapt sustainably to climate change, particularly those who are already socially excluded.
Climate expert and conflict researcher at adelphi
However, the country also experiences wider political, economic, and social challenges. Among a complex set of drivers of conflict dynamics in Mali, poor governance and structural socio-economic exclusion and marginalisation play important roles. Weak governance is both a cause and con- sequence of conflict: people often experience the state as corrupt, exploitative, predatory, and rent seeking; insecurity reduces state presence and service provision even further.
At the same time, livelihoods are increasingly difficult to sustain. The problem is caused by recession, inequality, insecurity, corruption, social exclusion and policies that erode rather than enable coping strategies. These dynamics enmesh with significant demographic changes in the form of population growth, urbanisation, a shift towards sedentarisation, and movement in search of economic opportunities.
There are four overlapping and interacting ways in which climate change and conflict are linked in Mali:
Climate change and conflict, separately and together, impact livelihoods, block adaptation, and affect social cohesion
Weak governance, rent seeking and corrupt behaviour negatively affect adaptation, conflict dynamics, and environmental degradation
Increasing competition over natural resources contributes to rising (intra- and intercommunal) tensions and violence
Climate insecurity is caused by and widens already existing inequalities, eroding ability to adapt, and driving conflict further
Lead author Chitra Nagarajan explains the four key ways that a warming planet is interacting with an already complex security scenario in Mali.
Against this backdrop, there is growing attention to the ways climate and conflict interact in Mali. However, there has been a lack of contextual evidence of specific risks, while concerns have rightly been raised that climate-related security risks could be used to avoid tackling wider issues of governance, exclusion, and marginalisation.
This paper aims to address these needs, by presenting qualitative and quantitative data analyses of climate security risks in the country. Using the Weathering Risk methodology, this case study is based on interviews with 87 individuals (28 women and 59 men) in June 2021, as well as historical analysis and future projections of climate change impacts in Mali conducted at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
7 recommendations for climate, peace and security in Mali
In conclusion, the new Mali report makes recommendations to the Malian government, civil society actors, donors, international non-governmental organisations, UN agencies and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
Improve collection and sharing of climate data
Raise awareness of conflict-sensitive climate adaptation
Improve inclusivity, accountability, and responsiveness of governance and security provision, particularly around natural resource management
Prioritise building climate security resilience in southern Mali
Encourage agro-ecological, climate-smart, and conflict-sensitive practices
Ensure ongoing and inclusive integrated climate security assessments of Mali
Strengthen government, military and civil society capacity to support populations, particularly those socially excluded, to adapt to climate security risks