Koenders: Security Council must address security risks arising from climate change

Speaking at the opening of the second Planetary Security Conference at the Peace Palace in The Hague on Monday, foreign minister Bert Koenders said, ‘Chaos, conflict and migration – caused in part by climate change – affect all of us.’ The conference brought together over 300 security specialists, academics and policymakers from over 70 countries to explore security risks posed by climate change and ways of resolving them.

‘More and more people are fleeing conflict- and drought-ravaged countries in search of a safe refuge elsewhere,’ the minister said. ‘We see evidence of this every day in Europe. If we want a safe world without involuntary migration flows, chaos and conflict, we have to do better at anticipating the impact of climate change on security. This will only happen if experts and policymakers at all levels can come together to produce solutions. This is why water and climate issues belong on the agenda of the UN Security Council. The Netherlands will raise these issues when it takes its Security Council seat in 2018.’

Regions that are already vulnerable can become even more unstable as a result of climatological changes, the minister stressed. ‘Prolonged droughts or excessive floods can deprive people of their livelihoods and force them to emigrate. There are few prospects for improvement. The Sahel region is crisscrossed by migration routes to the North. Here, too, increasing drought is leading to greater poverty. Many people are in transit, in search of a safer and better life. It’s important to improve the socioeconomic position of the younger generation so that they don’t have to uproot themselves or resort to terrorism.’

For all these reasons, that the minister would like to see this issue on the agenda of the UN Security Council. This is one of the Netherlands’ goals for its term on the Security Council in 2018. ‘We are convinced that climate change has major repercussions for our security,’ Mr Koenders said. ‘Many governments and organisations, including the United Nations, are in agreement on this point. We now need to transform this recognition into practical solutions and official policy. I believe that the mandate of every forthcoming UN mission should have a section on the climate. This is how to deal with the root causes of the problem.’

For a long time, security and climate were seen as two separate issues. This made it all the more difficult to move from theoretical solutions to action and policy. The Planetary Security Conference, and the Initiative linked to it, was launched last year by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This year it is being organised by a consortium headed by the Clingendael Institute.