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Climate Change, Water Conflicts and Human Security

Climate Change, Water Conflicts and Human Security

Regional Assessment and Policy Guidelines for the Mediterranean, Middle East and Sahel
It remains contested whether climatic and hydrological changes and increas­ing variabilities trigger and multiply conflict at various scales, or if they induce cooperation between and within countries.

Climate change has and will continue to have far-reaching impacts on environmental, social and economic conditions. Increasingly, climate change and the associated increase in the frequency of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and rising sea level is recognized as not only having humanitarian impacts, but also creating political and security risks that can affect national/regional stability and the welfare of people. This has led to increased political interest in the influence of climate change on water availability and human security. Specifi­cally, it remains contested whether climatic and hydrological changes and increas­ing variabilities trigger and multiply conflict at various scales, or if they induce cooperation between and within countries. The report is available for download.

This report [pdf, 4,42 MB, English] presents a comprehensive regional assessment of these questions in the CLICO study area – the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Sahel – in terms of climate change impacts, vulnerabilities, conflict/cooperation and human security. Results of the various approaches (in-depth case studies, large N statistical analyses, assessments of transboundary adaptive capacities and transactions costs, policy analysis related to climate change adaptation) confirm observations that climate and hydrological factors, socio-economic, institutional and political conditions are all important drivers of human (in) security, but their relative importance depends on the specific context in which they interact. CLICO research points toward stronger links between political, economic and social factors and water-related conflict than between climate-related variables and water conflict. (However, in the future these relationships might change.)

Ecologic Institute was in charge of a review on national and international policies and institutional frameworks, which revealed that many policies on climate change adaptation and water resources management exist, which address risks for human security linked to water and climate change in a more indirect way. Policies that are more explicitly aimed at conflict reduction in this context are missing. The report includes recommendations to guide policymakers in improving adaptive capacities, reducing vulnerabilities and, hence, increasing human security in the face of climate change. Besides these more general recommendations, specific recommendations related to certain sectors (e.g., agriculture, water management) or topics (e.g., migration, infrastructure) were developed.


Kloos, J., Gebert, N., Rosenfeld, T., and F. Renaud (2013). Climate Change, Water Conflicts and Human Security: Regional Assessment and Policy Guidelines for the Mediterranean, Middle East and Sahel. Report No. 10. Bonn: United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).

Julia Kloos (UNU-EHS)
Niklas Gebert (UNU-EHS)
Therese Rosenfeld (UNU-EHS)
Fabrice Renaud (UNU-EHS)
Dania Abdul Malak (CREAF)
Sireen Abu Jamous (PHG)
Neil Adger (UEA)
Amaia Albizua (ICTA, UAB)
Yacob Arsano (UEA)
Thomas Bernauer (ETHZ, PRIO)
Tobias Böhmelt (ETHZ, PRIO)
Adriana Bruggeman (CyI)
Lisa Bunclark (UEA)
Halvard Buhaug (CSCW, PRI)
Diana Calvo Boyero (ICTA, UAB)
Katerina Charalambous (CyI)
Declan Conway (UEA)
Giacomo D’Alisa
Charlotte De Bruyne (HUJ)
Hakan Djuma (CyI)
Alena Drieschova (HUJ)
Itay Fischhendler (HUJ)
Jaume Fons-Esteve (CREAF)
Nils Petter Gleditsch (CSCW, PRI)
Marisa Goulden (UEA)
Sam Graininger (UEA)
Panos Hadjinicolaou (CyI)
Clemens Hoffmann (UOS)
Giorgos Kallis (ICTA, UAB)
David Katz (HUJ)
Manfred A. Lange (CyI)
Jos Lelieveld (CyI)
Anita Milman (UEA)
Diana Pascual Sánchez (CREAF)
Stelios Pashiardis (Cyprus Meteorological Service)
Eduard Pla Ferrer (CREAF)
Kate Porter (UEA)
Jan Selby (UOS)
Julie Snorek (UNU-EHS)
Abdelrahman Tamimi (PHG)
Mohamed Tawfic Ahmed (Suez Canal University)
Theresa Tribaldos (ETHZ)
Ethemcan Turhan (ICTA, UAB)
Eivind Berg Weibust (CSCW, PRI)
Lars Wirkus (BICC)
Gerdis Wischnath (CSCW, PRIO)
Christos Zografos (ICTA, UA)
Published In
Clico Report No. 10
978-3-939923-78-7, e-ISBN: 978-3-939923-79-4
2304-0459, e-ISSN: 2304-0467
256 pp.
Project ID
Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
    1.1 Problem definition and research framing
    1.2 Scope of CLICO
    1.3 Report structure
  2. Conceptual framework
    2.1 The climate change, water conflict and human security nexus
    2.1.1 Hazards, vulnerability and adaptive capacity
    2.1.2 Conflict and cooperation
    2.1.3 Relationship between climate, water conflict and cooperation
    2.1.4 Human security
    2.2 Conceptual framework
    2.3 Summary
  3. Climate conditions and climate change outlook
    3.1 The Mediterranean region
    3.1.1 Climate conditions
    3.1.2 Water resources
    3.1.3 Water-related hazards and climate variability
    3.1.4 Climate outlooks
    3.2 Sahel and bordering countries: Niger, Sudan, Ethiopia
    3.2.1 Climate conditions
    3.2.2 Hydrological resources
    3.2.3 Water-related hazards and climate variability
    3.2.4 Climate outlooks
    3.3 Summary
  4. Policies at the national and international level
    4.1 Policies explicitly addressing the climate–water–security nexus
    4.2 Adaptation policies and institutions enhancing human security and mitigating conflict risk
    4.2.1 Policies targeted at enhancing the overall adaptive capacity of the population
    4.2.2 Policies improving institutions and governance
    4.2.3 Adaptation specific policies and measures
    4.2.4 Examples of adaptation measures and policies facilitating cooperation and conflict
    4.3 Effectiveness of current adaptation policies at the national level
    4.3.1 Generalized effectiveness of climate change adaptation policies
    4.3.2 Effectiveness of policies according to the policy cycle
    4.4 Summary
  5. Transboundary institutions under conditions of uncertainty
    5.1 Measuring adaptive capacity of transboundary institutions
    5.1.1 Indicator development
    5.1.2 Results
    5.2 Governing uncertainty in transboundary agreements
    5.2.1 What affects the choice of a mechanism?
    5.2.2 Results
    5.2.3 Findings
    5.3 Summary
  6. Assessments of hydro-security
    6.1 Large scale statistical analysis of factors contributing to water related conflict or cooperation
    6.1.1 A database for domestic, intra-state conflict and cooperation
    6.1.2 Determinants of domestic conflict and cooperation
    6.1.3 Summary
    6.2 Hydro-security in the case studies
    6.2.1 Jordan basin
    6.2.2 The Baro-Akobo sub-basin of the eastern Nile, Gambella National Regional State, Ethiopia
    6.2.3 Cyprus
    6.2.4 Intercontinental biosphere reserve of the Mediterranean (IBRM), Morocco–Spain
    6.2.5 North and South Sudan
    6.2.6 Tahoua region, Niger
    6.2.7 Ebro Delta, Spain
    6.2.8 Seyhan river basin, Turkey
    6.2.9 Ras Sudr, South Sinai
    6.2.10 Sarno, Italy
    6.2.11 Alexandria, Egypt
  7. Synthesis
    7.1 Findings
    7.2 Key findings related to the initial research questions
    7.3 Conditions for successful adaptation
    7.4 Summary
  8. Policy recommendations
    8.1 Increase knowledge and knowledge sharing by strengthening research capacity and information transfer
    8.2 Promote and strengthen accountable and functioning institutions
    8.3 Cooperation and conflict resolution
    8.4 Mainstreaming
    8.5 Sector specific measures
    8.6 Migration and resettlement
    8.7 Infrastructure investment for disaster risk reduction
    8.8 Recommendations for international policymakers
    8.9 Addressing all levels: elaborate a normative framework for adaptation

Appendix I: list of deliverables
Appendix II: synthesis report and CLICO deliverables
Chapter 2 annexes
Chapter 4 annexes

human security, water, water conflicts, climate change, Jordan basin, Baro-Akobo sub-basin, eastern Nile, Gambella National Regional State, Ethiopia, Cyprus, Mediterranean, Morocco, Spain, North and South Sudan, Tahoua region, Niger, Ebro Delta, Seyhan river basin, Turkey, Ras Sudr, South Sinai, Sarno, Italy, Alexandria, Egypt