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Policy Brief

The Warning Signs are Flashing Red: The Interplay Between Climate Change and Violent Extremism in the Western Sahel

04 Oct 2019

Climate change indirectly increases the risk of violent extremism, write Reinier Bergema and General (ret.) Tom Middendorp in their PSI-ICCT policy brief The Warning Signs are Flashing Red: The interplay between climate change and violent extremism in the Western Sahel.

Development and security cannot do without the other. It is not enough to counter violent extremism by addressing the symptoms; understanding and focusing on root causes, in regions such as the Western Sahel, is essential to countering violent extremism.

Countries in the Western Sahel suffer from the consequences of climate change: increasing droughts and water shortages make it harder for 50 million people—who depend on agriculture and livestock for their survival—to support their families. Joining a non-state armed group, for income and food, becomes ‘a tempting, or sometimes even the only, alternative.’

To address these challenges, the authors make five recommendations:

  1. Routinise and institutionalise attention to climate change in security institutions
  2. Factor in (counter)violent extremism and counter-terrorism into climate change efforts
  3. Create a comprehensive early warning mechanism
  4. Ensure comprehensive engagements: terrorist threats are not only a military issue, addressing economic and financial sources, online recruitment, supply chains, and climate change is essential for strong stabilisation efforts.
  5. Improve regional cooperation