Climate security refers to the direct and indirect impacts of the climate crisis on peace and security, where climate change acts as a threat multiplier, exacerbating underlying vulnerabilities and compounding existing grievances. The consequences of climate change affect all areas of human security (economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political) and undermine conflict prevention, sustaining peace and sustainable development efforts with a disproportionate impact on communities with existing vulnerabilities, including migrants, women and girls, children, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples. Global warming, environmental changes, and variations in weather patterns are placing added stress on governments already unable to meet national development needs, deepening socio-economic fragility, and a sense of marginalization and exclusion, thereby increasing political grievances. In fragile and conflict-affected states, these dynamics exacerbate tensions, particularly when national and local policies fail to address the causes of existing tension and to implement local mediation and dispute resolution mechanisms with the most vulnerable and marginalized groups for whom natural resources are depleted and traditional livelihoods progressively destroyed.

Evidence and data highlight that the consequences of climate change and environmental degradation are reshaping human mobility patterns that can take the form of internal and regional migration, on a temporary, circular or longer-term basis, by individuals, households and communities, moving voluntarily or forcibly displaced, as well as planned relocations supported by States or “trapped populations” for those unable to move. The consequences of climate change and environmental degradation are also transforming traditionally symbiotic relationships between seasonal migrants, such as herders and sedentary groups, such as farmers and fishers, into antagonistic relationships marked by violence. Today, people are already moving and most of the climate-related human mobility is currently taking place within countries. Large-scale rural-to-urban movements are driving rapid growth of the world’s cities, often fueled by the detrimental impact of the changing climate on rural livelihoods. As a result, tensions may rise in transit and destination settings by putting an additional burden on natural resources and available services and increasing competition over resources. Lack of access to services, sustainable employment and social protection in cities may exacerbate tensions in urban areas. A lack of livelihood options has been identified as a factor driving the youth to join criminal and armed groups. The prevalence of armed groups in areas affected by climate hazards or destination areas of climate mobility should, therefore, be considered when addressing the conflict, security and peace nexus.

In addition to the importance of supporting governments to limit carbon emissions, the human mobility policy landscape is another area that requires elevated focus to support solutions for people and communities impacted by the interplay between the consequences of climate change and insecurity. Depending on the human security context, moving out of harm’s way can either lead to unprepared and protracted displacement with increased humanitarian needs or, on the contrary, be an adaptation strategy to cope with the effects of climate change in a regular, safe, informed and voluntary manner. These situations call for longer-term development, peacebuilding and conflict prevention, adaptation and disaster risk reduction policies and context-specific practices that strengthen the resilience of migrants, displaced people and hosted communities to ensure durable solutions.

Building on IOM’s leading role as the UN Migration Agency and its Institutional Strategy on Migration, Environment and Climate Change 2021-2023, IOM understands the links between migration, environment, and climate change through the wide lens of human security and is committed to putting vulnerable people at the center of its responses. As the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Article 6 of the New Agenda for Peace and Action Agenda on Internal Displacement recall, adopting a human security approach is crucial to achieving sustainable development and solutions, building resilience and promoting human rights. Furthermore, IOM‘s approach to interlinkages between the climate and insecurity is rooted in the UN sustaining peace agenda, pioneered in the 2016 twin resolutions (UN General Assembly and Security Council). The sustaining peace approach emphasizes the importance of inclusivity as a key component to prevent lapse and relapse into conflict.  IOM commits to further advancing the role that integrated human mobility solutions can play in addressing climate, security and peace issues.

The climate, peace and security nexus is the lens that enables IOM to develop tailored analyses, response strategies, and programmes to the compounded challenges presented by the climate crisis on conflict-affected populations. In fragile and conflict contexts affected by climate change, IOM’s efforts to sustain peace blend conflict mitigation and resolution interventions. These efforts aim to build more inclusive governance systems while simultaneously providing governments and host communities with services, data and analyses to act early and better manage human mobility flows. Efforts also seek to better manage natural resources and land, enhance urban planning and conflict prevention, as well as adaptive technologies, trainings and agriculture and natural resource infrastructure to adapt their livelihoods. IOM programming on climate security expands from policy multilateral frameworks, free movement protocols, humanitarian visas, planned relocation guidelines to national and local adaptation plans, conflict prevention, community stabilization and environmental peacebuilding.

Examples of IOM’s activities

Adaptive Mediation in Thi-Qar: Integrating Tradition and Innovation for Climate Change Informed Conflict Resolution Mechanisms, Iraq
Iraq faces significant climate change challenges, ranking fifth globally in vulnerability. The southern governorate of Dhi Qar experiences disproportionate impacts, including environmental degradation and displacement that exacerbate existing tensions and instability. Water scarcity intensifies conflict among tribal groups, amplifying a fragile social fabric characterized by low institutional trust and high unemployment. To address these multidimensional issues, IOM, supported by the UN Human Security Trust Fund, implemented a multifaceted approach, conducting climate vulnerability assessments, fostering collaboration among local stakeholders and building climate adaptation capacities. IOM mapped natural resource and conflict management systems and provided climate-informed mediation training to tribal leaders and civil society organizations. Recognizing the significance of local customs, IOM integrated traditional practices into mediation efforts. These initiatives aimed to enhance resource management and mitigate conflict, promoting sustainability and community resilience amidst worsening climate conditions in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate.

Breaking the Climate-Conflict Cycle in Galmudug, Somalia 
In Somalia, competition over access to land and water is the structural driver of most violent conflict. Climate change and environmental degradation further reduce scarce water resources, forcing communities to move and confront one another for control over diminishing ecological yields. Through multi-sectoral and cross-expertise collaboration, IOM, UNEP and SIPRI are implementing and advancing policy to reduce climate change-related displacement and conflict in target locations in Galmudug State through tangible investments and pragmatic innovations for water and energy capture in the agropastoral sector, bolstered by sustained dialogue and enhanced natural resource management. Since early 2023, communities have improved ability to identify, develop, and reinforce inclusive, climate-sensitive, and natural resource management structures and dispute resolution mechanisms that inhibit the escalation of climate-induced violence. Activities included mobility tracking assessments, the establishment of a Transhumance Tracking Tool (TTT), the design and construction or rehabilitation of ecologically viable ground- and surface water systems with the establishment of a Water User Committee, and capacity-building workshops to promote rural resilience and strengthen environmentally informed dispute resolution. 

Promoting a Human Security Approach to Disaster Displacement and Environmental Migration Policies Integrating the COVID-19 Pandemic Response in the Eastern Caribbean
In collaboration with UNFCCC, UNTFHS and PDD, IOM are promoting the human security approach to disaster displacement and environmental migration, integrating the COVID-19 response in the Eastern Caribbean through enhanced policy coherence and regional coordination. The programme aims to improve policy coherence at the national level in the Eastern Caribbean SIDS on the intersection between disasters and environmental displacement, and in the current COVID-19 environment; and develop and adopt a human security and COVID-19 sensitive regional framework to address cross-border climate-related migration in the Eastern Caribbean.

Peaceful Transhumance Programme in West and Central Africa - Transhumance Tracking Tool (TTT)
Through its transition and recovery programmes, IOM supports a local conflict mitigation approach, and has developed data collection tools aiming at better understanding transhumance and supporting local pre-emptive responses. In this context, IOM cooperates with the Réseau Billital Maroobé, the regional herders’ federation of pastoralist associations of West and Central Africa, for the roll-out of an early warning “Transhumance Tracking Tool”. This tool is composed of four main data collection mechanisms: 1. Stock monitoring; 2. Flow monitoring; 3. Early warning system; and 4. Individual surveys.

Enhancing protection and empowerment of migrants and communities affected by climate change and disasters in the Pacific region (PCCMHS) 
This regional programme seeks to protect and empower communities adversely affected by climate change and disasters in the Pacific region. A key component is to support a regional human security-based response on climate change-related displacement, migration, and planned relocation by facilitating an appropriate framework. The programme also empowers communities affected by climate change through training and skills development activities to increase access to labour mobility schemes, and pre-departure orientation to support migrants to migrate safely with an understanding of their rights. The programme also increases the capacity of government and non-government stakeholders to promote labour mobility that is safe, regular, and inclusive. Led by IOM, this regional programme is funded by the UN Trust Fund for Human Security, in partnerships with United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), International Labour Organization (ILO), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD). 

Strengthening the Role of Women in Peace Building through Community-Level Natural Resources Management
Yemen’s ongoing conflict has stretched existing mechanisms and overwhelmed traditional non-formal actors, such as community leaders. The FAO and IOM partnered, with support from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), to implement a series of interventions to strengthen community-level peace building capacities through natural resources management in Sana’a and Lahj governorates in Yemen. The project was implemented from January 2018 to May 2019 and aimed to reduce conflict over land and water, while also enhancing social cohesion through improving livelihoods and increasing the role of women in natural resource management and conflict resolution mechanisms. The project rehabilitated community irrigation water infrastructure, increasing protection against recurrent floods, which often damaged neighbouring houses and contributed to conflict between the farmers and local residents that use the floodwater or irrigation.

Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) Initiative
IOM supports the inclusion of migrants and displaced persons in disaster risk reduction efforts, taking into account the specific vulnerabilities that these groups face and the fact that they are too often unaccounted for when disaster strikes. This multi-stakeholder initiative produced the “Guidelines to Protect Migrants in Countries Experiencing Conflict or Disaster”.

Key Initiatives

IOM’s partnership with the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding (CCCPA) has started and grown through IOM’s consistent support to the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development (known as the Aswan Forum), for which CCCPA acts as the Secretariat. The Aswan Forum was initiated in 2019 when Egypt was the Chair of the African Union to launch the conversation on peace, security and development in Africa and home-grown solutions for the issues. As a supporting partner, IOM has supported the first, second, and third editions of the Aswan Forum through close coordination with CCCPA. The third edition in June 2022 specifically focused on the climate, peace and security nexus under the theme “Africa in an Era of Cascading Risks and Climate Vulnerability: Pathways for a Peaceful, Resilient, and Sustainable Continent.” The concluding document of the third edition positions “Advancing Durable Solutions to Address the Climate-Displacement Nexus and Sustaining Peace in Africa” as one of the key outcomes of the deliberations to which IOM contributed through its high-level engagement.

IOM’s partnership with CCCPA has further developed through the COP 27 Presidency’s initiative on ‘Climate Responses for Sustaining Peace (CRSP)’, inspired by the key outcomes of the third edition of the Aswan Forum. One of the four pillars of the CRSP initiative focuses on “Advancing Durable Solutions to the Climate-Displacement Nexus,” IOM has been asked to co-lead the initiative. In relation to the CRSP initiative, IOM has collaborated with CCCPA to run the session on “Zooming in at the Climate-Displacement Nexus in Africa” as part of the CCCPA-organized Climate Responsive Programming for Sustaining Peace training in 2023.

IOM is part of the UN Community of Practice (CoP) on Climate and Security, established by the Climate Security Mechanism (CSM). The CoP brings together representatives from more than 30 UN entities with a shared interest in understanding and addressing climate-related security risks to exchange knowledge, share experiences, and identify opportunities for cooperation. 

IOM is part of the global Task Force on Migration, Environmental Change and Conflict, convened by the IUCN CEESP Theme on Environment and Peace. The Task force is a multi-stakeholder and interdisciplinary group of practitioners, policymakers and researchers, to critically assess and synthesize existing information and identify knowledge gaps around the interlinkages between environmental change, human and species migration, and violent conflict in order to support practitioners and decision-makers in addressing drivers and impacts through nature-based or other solutions. As part of these efforts, IOM contributed to the IUCN CEESP report “Planet on the Move – The Role of Conservation at the Intersection of Migration, Conflict and Environmental Change” (forthcoming) and participated to a launch session at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2020

IOM is involved in the Geneva Dialogue on Environment, Climate Conflict and Peace, convened by the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform. The initiative aims to foster inter-institutional collaboration and dialogue, promotes shared learning and innovation, and mainstream these topics across the board between the environment, climate, conservation, conflict, security and peace sectors. As part of these efforts, IOM contributed, together with partners, to the White Paper on the Future of Environmental Peacebuilding and will organize a roundtable discussion on human mobility and peacebuilding at the second International Conference on Environmental Peacebuilding

The UN Regional Working Group on Climate Change, Environment, Security and Development in West Africa (UN-CCEDS) was launched by the Regional Office in West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), in coordination with IOM, UNEP and the UNFCCC, to encourage UN information-sharing and cross-pillar coordination to reduce the adverse effects of climate change and environmental degradation on human security and address the impacts of these phenomena on mobility and peace in the ECOWAS region. 

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is working with FAO and IOM to promote the peaceful settlement of farmer‑herder conflicts. Through conflict prevention and community stabilization activities, including cross-border projects. 

IOM Publications
Other relevant publications

FAO Proposes Five Key Actions to Address Climate-conflict Nexus at the United Nations Security Council

ODI Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) (2023): Living with climate change, conflict and displacement: recognising agency, voice, mobility, language and linkages

DCAF (2022): WOMEN SPEAK: The lived nexus between climate, gender and security

Climate Security Mechanism (2021): Progress Report  

Geneva Peacebuilding Platform (2021): Stocktaking report: Geneva Dialogue on Environment, Climate, Conflict, and Peace (ECCP)