Statement by Amb. Byrne Nason at the UNSC Debate on Terrorism and Climate Change
Statement09 December 2021
Merci beaucoup, Monsieur le Président,
Je voudrais d’abord vous remercier sincèrement pour l’accueil chaleureux que vous nous avez donné lors de la visite de ce Conseil au Niger le mois dernier. J’exprime mes condoléances les plus sincères à vous, et aux familles des soldats nigériens qui ont été tués cette semaine ainsi qu’aux communautés affectées par les attentats récents. Je voudrais également offrir mes condoléances aux familles des sept casques bleus de la MINUSMA qui ont été tués hier dans le centre du Mali. Je souhaite un prompt rétablissement aux blessés. Je suis profondément attristée par la mort d’un autre casque bleu cette semaine lors de l’attentat odieux qui a entrainé la mort de plus de 30 civiles, y compris les femmes et les enfants, au centre du Mali.
I want to start by thanking you, President Bazoum, for convening us today. Ireland has been proud to work hand in hand with Niger over the last 12 months in advancing the critical issue of Climate and Security at the Security Council.
Secretary-General, thank you for once again sounding the alarm on the urgent need to address climate change in all of its manifestations, including in relation to peace and security. I can assure the Secretary General that his calls have not fallen on deaf ears.
Chairperson Faki and Executive Secretary Nuhu, thank you for demonstrating the very real and present interplay of climate and conflict from the perspective of your respective organisations. The African continent has long been at the forefront of this crisis. Your experiences, as well as those of others such as the Small Island Developing States, are absolutely critical to shaping our collective response to this growing threat. We should listen to those who know what this means every day.
In 1945, our forebears came together in a spirit of unbridled optimism to pursue a common and noble agenda. Their goal, their vision, was as ambitious as it was inspiring. Their promise, the promise of the Charter, to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war is as relevant today as it was then. 75 years on, the responsibility placed on the shoulders of this Council is just as momentous.
But as we know, time doesn’t stand still. Nor should our ambition. We are now faced with a new challenge. One that is global, one that is immediate, and one that puts our collective security at risk. It is our responsibility, sitting around this symbolic horseshoe table, to step up and deliver on that promise which has given hope to millions across the globe. And to step up now.
Put simply, climate change is the defining challenge of our time.
It acts as a threat multiplier. It exacerbates existing inequalities, vulnerabilities and insecurities. It impacts the enjoyment of human rights. And it is felt most acutely by those already living in poverty, in conflict, by those who are marginalised and by those who lack the capacity and resources to build resilience. Women and girls are disproportionately affected. Women and girls bear the brunt, whether in Niamey in the Sahel or in Apia in Samoa.
We know that in any given context, climate change can exacerbate existing socio-economic tensions. Its effects can degrade environments and livelihoods, and weaken political institutions. In some situations, these effects provide the space for terrorist groups to flourish and extend their reach, particularly where governance is weakened. This is a tragedy.
We are seeing that lack of adequate government responses to increasingly frequent and extreme weather events can also weaken the social contract between citizens and the state. This weakening provides traction to cynical terrorist initiatives and narratives. In turn, situations of conflict exacerbated by climate change can provide breeding grounds for those terrorist groups. We heard what President Bazoum said to us clearly this morning, Mr President. We have a responsibility, at this Council, to break this vicious and self-reinforcing cycle. As the President said this morning, we should remain mobilised and determined.
As vital resources such as water and fertile land diminish in certain regions, we also see the threat of their weaponisation growing. Terrorist groups show that they can leverage access to these resources to increase their influence and to generate funds. Economic incentives may be exerted to recruit those whose traditional livelihoods are adversely affected by climate change.
This Council has already acknowledged the adverse effects of climate change and ecological challenges on the stability of certain regions, such as the Lake Chad Basin.
What’s needed now, is a better grasp of the problem. What’s needed now is further empirical analysis.
With the right information in hand, we can take bold and decisive action. We need to address this complex and growing challenge. This is our responsibility here around this table. No more, no less.
We have some concerns about risks that counter-terrorism can be misused to criminalise environmental human rights defenders and civil society organisations working on climate change issues. Counter-terrorism legislation should not be misused to target those defending or exercising human rights. And of course, counter-terrorism measures should always be in full compliance with international law.
To be effective, steps to address climate change need to be sufficient and transparent. Importantly, they should be administered through inclusive, accountable and non-discriminatory processes. They need to be fit for purpose, and aim to assist persons and communities most in need. I want to emphasise that all our efforts simply must ensure the full participation of women. Women are key actors in this challenge of our lifetime, representing half of our global population. Nothing less than the meaningful participation of women can ever expect to deliver on the scale of this challenge. We already have evidence of that. Women should be in the room and at the table when these issues are discussed. We also cannot afford not to harness the leadership already shown by youth on climate action.
This Council has already taken important strides in recognising the complex links between climate and conflict. This year alone, 13 of our own Council products have addressed and included important language on the adverse impacts of climate change. However to prevent and resolve conflicts that are exacerbated by the effects of climate, we need to do more. We need a basic, structured and systematic approach. We are playing our part, both here at the Council, but also critically on the ground.
I call on all Council members to support the work we have underway through the climate security advisor in South Sudan, which Ireland has directly supported through the UN’s Climate Security Mechanism.
Meaningfully addressing this complex issue means that we must also deepen our understanding of it. Ireland and Niger have led discussions on a thematic Security Council resolution that aims to achieve that. In our view, this resolution is an important opportunity to strengthen the Security Council’s ability to better understand and address climate-related security risks within its mandate. Increasing the data and evidence base over time will allow the Council to take informed actions. It will increase the capacity of this Council to understand its own responsibilities in relation to the implications of climate-related security risks.
Mr President, I echo President Bazoum’s call, and other calls here this morning, to colleagues around the table now and those joining the debate today, to support this critical resolution.
To conclude, Mr President,
It is clear that the threats to international peace and security have changed since this Council first came together in 1945. However, our responsibility to tackle them has not.
This Council must recognise and accept its role in the fight against climate change. We need to integrate climate-related security risks into our conflict resolution, prevention and mediation efforts. Doing so will help maintain international peace and security. Failure to do so is unconscionable.
To those on the frontlines of this crisis, I want to say to you that we hear you and we believe your testimonies.
And to our fellow Council members, the time to act is now.
Thank you, Mr President.