• Cop-26 and Climate Change versus Armed Conflict as Humanitarian Focus
  • The Instruments of Conflict from a Futures Perspective
  • A Polylateral System to Manage Global Threats

The importance of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP-26) which has just been launched in Glasgow, is clearly recognised across the globe, representing a myriad of perspectives and a plethora of short and long-term proposals about ways forward.

In considering the importance of COP-26, the highly regarded humanitarian analyst, Hugo Slim, has suggested in a recent article in The New Humanitarian, that the humanitarian sector has to move away from its fixation with armed conflict.

Humanitarians have spent the last 30 years focused mainly on armed conflicts, not natural hazards, putting their organisations on a war footing while de-prioritising climate-related disaster response. This needs to change. Let COP26 be the catalyst for humanitarians to pivot away from war humanitarianism and towards climate humanitarianism.

This means collaborating with governments and local humanitarians to design a basic package of climate relief, while supporting people through climate transition and agreeing new legal protections in an International Climate Law (ICL) that would regulate climate emergencies just as International Humanitarian Law (IHL) regulates war.

Yet, while Slim’s analysis is compelling and timely, there is an alternative set of issues that also needs to be considered. While global leaders are so rightly preparing to deal with the existential threat of climate change, there is at the same time unprecedented levels of interstate conflict and intrastate violence, leaving tens of millions of people across the globe without the most basic means for survival. That well known fact is clearly recognised by the humanitarian community in general, and indeed it could and should be argued that climate change is both a precursor of war and vice versa.

in the balance - climate and conflictHowever, what the humanitarian sector has to consider, and the global community at large, is that the very nature of conflict may well change over the next decade creating types and levels of vulnerability that will be unprecedented in their dynamics and dimensions. The weaknesses of the multilateral system that have been increasingly evident when addressing issues such as climate change bode ill for dealing with the humanitarian consequences of other types of emerging global threats.

We would like to suggest that other types of lethal threats, in this case new instruments of conflict, also need to be high on the agenda of the global community. See The Instruments of Conflict from a Futures Perspective.

instruments of conflict

And, while Hugo Slim rightly suggests there should be an International Climate Law along with International Humanitarian Law, we would like to suggest that there is an urgent need for what we discussed in our last post as a polylateral system and relevant capacities to monitor and manage global threats too often ignored or not recognised.

Perhaps the extent to which the global community has the will and capacities to avoid, for example, the consequences of future hybrid warfare, may be tested by the ways that the negotiations, conclusions and agreements were achieved in Glasgow.

Let’s see.