UNDP’s study and typology of climate security risks described in first round Nationally Determined Contributions with contributions from UNFCCC can help inform the Climate Promise, offer a perspective on how Member States understand climate-related security risks and possible direction for climate security mainstreaming. This discussion serves to exchange on good practices on mainstreaming and glean insights for next steps and will examine mainstreaming in both directions: the challenges of mainstreaming climate change into security and peacebuilding efforts and ensuring that climate change policy and planning is peace positive. A Webinar will share the UNDP study as well as the outcomes of this e-discussion.

  1. What examples are there of mainstreaming climate change into peace processes and agreements and peacebuilding strategies?
  2. What are good practices ensuring climate security into policy, planning and strategy?
  3. How can we ensure that climate action is peace positive? What do the metrics look like?
  4. What are good practices in fostering transboundary adaptation planning and strategy?

Comments (21)

Matti Goldberg Moderator

Welcome to the e-discussion on mainstreaming climate security into policies and practices. Your moderators this week, until 20 October, will be Francisca Aguayo and Matti Goldberg. We will facilitate your exchange, help structure the discussion, and, at the end of our "tenure", provide a summary of your contributions to serve as a snapshot of where we got, and to inform the exchange next week. There are two substantive starting points for the discussions: 1. UNDP's study and typology of climate security risks described in first NDCs, which will be available soon; 2. the four guiding questions listed above. We look forward to constructive, targeted, practical and creative views on ways to integrate climate security into policies and practices, and to ensure that climate policies are peace positive. Many thanks for joining! Francisca and Matti

Catherine Wong Moderator

Thank you Matti and Francisca, the challenges and experience of mainstreaming gender into climate change seem to be an interesting and important reference point for us in terms of climate security mainstreaming.

It would be also good perhaps to think about the policy, planning and strategy processes that we would like to influence. 

SIPRI's study of the Women, Peace and Security National Action Plans which finds that 17 of the 80 NAPs referenced climate change as an insightful read.

Francisca Aguayo Armijo Moderator

Thank you very much for sharing this insightful study, Catherine, and welcome everyone! It is indeed very interesting to see how NAPs are integrating the links among gender, climate change and security. 

Other areas to explore in this discussion could be migration and displacement. How can we mainstream climate security in migration policies? What are the challenges, obstacles and opportunities? 

More broadly, how can we incorporate climate security and climate change adaptation objectives into sectoral policies and plans? What environmental risks and threats should we consider when thinking about mainstreaming climate security into policy, planning and strategy?

Adriana Abdenur Moderator

Hi everyone.  Do you know when the UNDP study will be available? I am very curious about their typology.

Matti Goldberg Moderator

Hi Adriana, thanks for your message. I believe the full study will be out on Monday, and the intention is to publish some preliminary materials to illustrate the typology already today. This might change but that's the latest information I have. In the meantime we encourage everyone to react to the framing questions above. Regards, Matti

Adriana Abdenur Moderator

If we take a step back, what do we mean by mainstreaming here?  And can we think of examples of previous attempts--successful or not--to mainstream a policy item within the UN agenda?  The one that occurs to me is Women, Peace and Security, whose mainstreaming has been a long and has been a rather slow process, for a variety of reasons that have to do, I believe, with politics, institutional arrangements, and resources. I am wondering what useful lessons we may find in other mainstreaming efforts that might be useful for climate and security. 

Pascale Ricard

Hello, thank you very much for this interesting debate! I am also wondering about the notion of "mainstreaming", and the field of reflection. Is it only about the relation between climate on the one hand and peace keeping and building, or the notion of 'security' in a strict sense on the other hand ? Or the field of this work is more general?
Moreover, what would be the place of environmental law in this debate? The climate and the environment are often separated legally, although they are closely linked in practice.

Thanks again, Best regards, Pascale

Francisca Aguayo Armijo Moderator

Hi Pascale, thank you for participating in this discussion, very interesting reflections about the role of environmental law!

I am very curious about the distinction you mentioned between climate and the environment from a legal standpoint, how is this separation reflected in legal frameworks? Do you think is there any way out, such as using soft law and policy strategies instead of legally binding frameworks to address these issues?

In order to take into account the linkages, should we go beyond the concept of climate security and talk about environmental risks? 

Beatrice Mosello Moderator

Hi everyone!

Great to be part of this discussion, which has already raised some really interesting points, e.g. re looking at lessons learned (what went well and what went wrong) from the WPS agenda. The big elephant in the room is of course that we are still working very much in siloes - chasing funding that is (with a few exceptions) largely organised along sectoral lines.

So the question of 'mainstreaming' to me is one of changing the way we conceptualise climate change, development/humanitarian & peacebuilding strategies, and the way we implement them. It should be about understanding the context as a starting point (and the drivers of conflict, power relations/interests, other pressures/stresses, history, patterns of marginalisation and inequalities, etc.), and identifying solutions, possibly from the bottom-up, rather than coming in with the 'usual' interventions following blueprints that may be difficult to adapt to the local reality.

Sorry, long answer! Looking forward to more exchange on this! 

Best wishes to you all,


Francisca Aguayo Armijo Moderator

Hi James, thank you for sharing! Food insecurity and its interactions with climate change are indeed an extremely relevant topic. The study mentions the "lack" of governments' actions and their "impotence" in this field. Do you find that these issues and gaps are being addressed at the international level, in particular at the UN? 

Also, the examples mentioned in the study encompass Africa and Asia. How do these issues unfold in other regions, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean?

Catherine Wong Moderator

As Matti, mentioned, we wanted to share the figure from a study he and I worked on together, which looks at how climate-related security risks are outlined in the first round NDCs. This is the synthesized version for social media purposes which presents the typology of themes in a snapshot.

Full version (still being tweaked) will be available in the report to be released next week.

We think it could offer a perspective on mainstreaming. It would be great to understand other such reference points.

UNDP (2020). Climate security NDCs typology and analysis redacted figure

Beatrice Mosello Moderator

Thanks [~91332], great figure that helps visualise the different ways in which climate-related security risks generally understood (and really looking forward to your study!) Just a quick reflection from my end: what I find especially interesting here is that the highest number of mentions comes in relation to sub-regional and cross-border impacts. This is something we're seeing across our work looking at pathways of climate-related security risks in different contexts (see a few of those here: https://climate-security-expert-network.org/library#Regional%20Risk%20B…) - that actually these manifest more evidently at sub-regional/cross-border levels. So perhaps a key take away for us is that 'mainstreaming' climate-security should not only focus on national policy-making or international programmes and interventions, but also looking at the sub-national/regional and cross-border levels. This brings up a whole new set of questions on the role of regional organisations, transboundary institutional arrangements, local governments and governance structures, etc. How do these understand climate change impacts, security risks, and their interactions? And what actions can they take to address them?

Catherine Wong Moderator

[~99186], yes it was really interesting to see from NDCs how climate-related security risks are being perceived/described. We found that themes 1, 2 and 3 appeared most frequently. Would definitely concur that we need to think about transboundary externalities and that is something that comes across too in the scan.

Francisca Aguayo Armijo Moderator

Hi [~99169] , [~99265] and [~99186] , thank you very much for your interesting comments and reflections about the concept of "mainstreaming". I completely agree with the need to take a step back and reflect on the very concept of mainstreaming and how it impacts policy- and decision-making. And again, in this field, debates and policies on mainstreaming gender issues across different fields might be a useful starting point both within the UN and at the local level. 

When mainstreaming climate security, the conceptualization of "security" beyond traditional definitions seems essential, building on concepts such as human security, nonconventional threats and the security-development nexus. At the same time, there are some concerns, in particular from Member States at the UN, about the "securitization" of climate change. How do we address these issues in policy processes?

This SSRC literature review on climate security might be a good starting point for the conceptualization debate, providing also a brief overview of the impact of research on international policy processes: https://www.ssrc.org/publications/view/the-field-of-climate-and-securit… 

Adriana Abdenur Moderator

One lesson from WPS: that agenda has required bringing together two epistemic/policy communities that were largely separate before Resolution 1325.  Those working on gender issues had to learn to speak with, and work with, those working on security issues, and vice versa.  Bridging that gap has been an uphill battle and has required the development of anchor frameworks, especially via the relevant UNSC resolutions, but also institutional innovations like gender focal points in peace operations, and then more capillary mechanisms like the National Action Plans on WPS.  Slowly this bridge zone has yielded a set of concepts and common language, without requiring an entirely new organisation within the UN system.  And even so, there are still enormous gaps to be filled, and rollbacks to be avoided.

So bridging climate (which, in my understanding, has focused on the scientific diagnostics, the mitigation negotiations, and adaptation policies) and security (defined more broadly, as Beatrice has noted here, as human as well as hard security) will also require normative, structural and operational innovations.  An excessive focus on hard security would lead to disproportionate attention to the USNC, which raises all sorts of red flags among member states that fear securitisation, e.g. climate/security being used as a justification for self-interested military interventionism.  

Extending the name of the debate to climate, security and peacebuilding might expand the possibilities of anchoring/mainstreaming the topic. I am also in favor of dropping the term "nexus," although have been guilty of using it myself. 

Beatrice Mosello Moderator

I could not agree more! The way we conceptualise security is key. In our experience, it is common for especially governments to understand security in its 'hard' sense and this can a) raise concerns for the securitisation of climate change (as you say) but also b) reduce the scope of potential interventions to the military realm or peacekeeping/peacebuilding - also pushing away other stakeholders (e.g. CSOs, NGOs with a more climate change adaptation/development focus) to intervene. I think the language/framing we use should be adapted to the specific context we consider/operate in. In some instances, security may be well understood and provide a useful way to frame problems and then think of solutions. In others, adding the specification 'human' will be essential; in others, it may be more effective (and acceptable) to talk about conflict risks; or fragility. 

Matti Goldberg Moderator

Good morning everyone, many thanks to all for the rich contributions! I thought perhaps it might be a good moment to recap how the discussion is evolving. Here's my attempt to synthesize the main questions, possible answers, as well as sources of answers expressed in the contributions. This is a "snapshot" not meant to constrain the discussion, but feel free to build on this if you think it captures things well.

What is mainstreaming? Is it about 1. incorporating climate-related security risks into sectoral efforts and plans, 2. linking climate change and e.g. peacekeeping efforts, 3. considering security in a broader sense, or all of the above?

What lessons are available on mainstreaming?

  • Possible sources of lessons:
    • SIPRI’s study Women, Peace and Security National Action Plans: need to integrate separate policy communities and learn a “shared language”, define institutional anchors and planning instruments (such as National Action Plans);
    • UNDP’s typology of climate-security linkages in NDCs: overview of how countries express climate- security links;
    • Reports and risk briefs by Climate Security Expert Network;
  • Successful integration seems to imply normative, structural and operational innovations;
  • Important to consider various levels of governance, transboundary aspects, and diverse conflict drivers;
  • Solutions should always be compatible with local circumstances.

How to conceptualize security?

  • ‘Hard’ security, “human security”, or context-specific and adaptable framings? Too much attention to ‘hard’ security comes with concerns of interventionism and marginalization of stakeholders.
  • Two sources identified to help conceptualization: SSRC’s literature review and case studies on food conflicts; UNDP typology also illustrates the heterogeneity of framings in NDCs;

Other relevant linkages mentioned were gender, climate and security; food security; migration and displacement; security and development.


Hello to all. Thank you for this interesting topic and discussion. I was wondering how policy processes could developp a response to environmentally induced dispacement. From what I know of the subject, States often see internal or international environmentally displaced persons both as a human rights challenge  and as a security risk. For now, the later consideration has been an obstacle to the development of a legal regime to protect environmentally displaced perons. How can best practices (and other soft laws) contribute to fill that legal void and succeed where hard law cannot exist ? How can one avoid that the threat of massive environmentally displacement in future years create a security based reaction from States ? 

Francisca Aguayo Armijo Moderator

Hi [~99362] and [~99164] , thank you for raising important issues around the interlinkages between climate change, security and migration, including internally displaced people from rural to urban areas and the need for adaptation planning in large cities.

When it comes to displacement, it's very interesting to see how the security component is playing a major role in stopping the development of a legal regime to protect environmentally displaced people. This can lead us back to our previous discussions summarized by [~99183] on the risks related to the securitization of climate change and the importance of the concept of security we retain when mainstreaming climate security in policy processes.

Building on [~99362] 's and [~99265] 's comments, it seems also that international law could play a larger role in the debate about mainstreaming climate security when it comes to both the substance and the tools available to impact policy processes. When reflecting on the tools, as mentioned in the discussion, we could explore the potential role of what is known in the legal field as "soft" law (instruments that are not legally binding, such as GA resolutions), as opposed to "hard" law (treaties, customary law). Because they lack a legally binding force, soft law instruments can prove to be more flexible and effective in setting frameworks on emerging issues on which agreements among states are more difficult to achieve.

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