Environment and Security

Environment and Security 8 /

Understanding links between environment and security

The links between environment and security are the focus of debate in international policy circles as well as in the academic community. This report is based on a specific, conflict-oriented approach to the concept of environmental security and focuses on identifying linkages between envi- ronmental degradation and conflict in a given region. Modern conflicts are complex, unfolding on several levels. Researchers emphasize that various forms of stress may engender insecurity whereas other factors promote security for individuals and groups (see table below). Although still very broad in its scope, the table below un- derlines the need to look at the problems and issues that decrease the resilience of groups and societies and make them more vulnerable to threats, including the threat of violent conflict. Empirically it has been difficult to dem- onstrate that either poverty or environmental factors, in and by themselves, are strong determinants of conflict. However, recent research (Ohlsson, 2000) shows that loss of livelihoods is the common denominator for many of the internal conflicts of the last decades. Ohlsson argues that “while poverty may be a near-endemic condition in certain societies, loss of livelihoods marks a rapid transition from a previous stable condition of relative

Livelihood Definition

A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (stores, resources, claims, and access) and activities required for a means of living.

Source: Chambers and Conway, 1992

welfare into a condition of poverty or destitution”. It is the rapid process of change resulting in a sudden fall into pov- erty that creates the potential for livelihood conflicts . There are many possible causes for loss of livelihood in the contemporary world though they are mostly related to job scarcity, population growth and environmental deg- radation of key resources such as water and arable land. Environmental scarcities of these two assets constitute a special case of growing importance. Although roughly half the world’s population now lives in cities, agriculture is still by far the largest single source of livelihoods and income. The rapid negative changes associated with the loss of livelihoods undermine the resilience of societies – their capacity to absorb shocks – and increase vulnerability to

Security-Promoting Mechanisms versus Insecurity-Promoting Mechanisms

Insecurity-Promoting Mechanisms


Security-Promoting Mechanisms


Poverty Inequality Corruption Unlawful use of force Discrimination Injustice High birth rate Rapid population flows Scarcity Diseases

Wealth Welfare Policies Law Legitimate force Social identity Justice Low birth rate Urbanization Life support Raw materials





Source: Dabelko et al., 2000. in Maltais et al.,2003

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