Climate Change Fuels Recruitment To Armed Non-state Actors

Vulnerability of Sahel

17 Mar 2021 by The Water Diplomat

A new report from the United Nations University (UNU) describes climate change effects as undermining already fragile livelihoods, leading to conditions that appeal to recruitment efforts of local armed militias.

Previous media reports indicate that armed non-State actors have cut off access to water in order to facilitate attacks or to displace populations, but the overall success of these strategies is uncertain.

UNU's Centre for Policy Research conducted an extensive survey of community leaders primarily in Northeast Nigeria.

Nearly 70 Percent of the respondents noted marked changes in season patterns, suggesting that they acknowledge a change in climate. Of that cohort, approximate 85 Percent reported that they had direct knowledge of people whose lives had become negatively affected by these shifts. Approximately 40 Percent know of people who had joined Boko Haram or similar groups because of agricultural difficulties. More than 60 Percent responded that they knew someone who had joined sef-defense groups.

The research suggests that these findings are alarming and confirms that these militias are taking advantage of the changing climate and its impacts on the livelihoods of the local populations.

But the situation is not confined to Northeast Nigeria. In Northwest Nigeria similar drastic climate change impacts are disrupting traditional agricultural and pastoral livelihoods, creating a similar opportunity for exploitation of armed groups.

By taking advantage of resource-related tensions between farmers and herders, groups such as Boko Haram have been able to recruit participants from rural communities, thereby “digging in” to additional territory, including other Sahel nations.

Climate-conflict links are gaining more traction in the international community, and the emerging evidence suggests that climate change is influencing trajectories into armed groups.

The report calls for assistance for vulnerable populations to address issues that relate to the effects of climate change, with particular attention to access to resources, livelihoods and relations with their neighbours.