17 March 2023

Climate Security and the Security Sector in Southeast Asia

Four of the 10 countries most affected by climate change in the past 20 years are in Southeast Asia. As such, climate change poses a profound threat to populations across the region, spanning traditional security dimensions as well as non-traditional aspects such as food, water and health security. In particular, marginalised groups such as women, the disabled, rural populations and refugees are disproportionately affected by climate-induced security threats and yet have limited capacities to adapt to these changes.

However, more effective management of climate change can partially mitigate its detrimental effects on human security. Strengthening governance mechanisms, particularly within the security sector, can provide a clear entry point for improving climate insecurity responses. If security sector institutions across Southeast Asia can develop their capacities to respond to, plan for and predict climate-induced security threats, they will have significant potential to manage and partially mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Vitally, for these reforms to successfully respond to climate change’s wide-ranging security implications, they should abide by principles of good governance such as inclusivity, transparency and accountability. Thus, security sector governance and reform (SSG/R) offers an effective policy response to climate insecurity, requiring the reform of roles and responsibilities at all levels including regional organisations, governments, security institutions and civil society.

For civil society, recommended entry points for reform include mobilising local communities, empowering grassroots organisations, expanding oversight capacities and sharing expertise. Secondly, security institutions should green their own operations, introduce climate-conditional budgets, develop enhanced diagnostic capacities and improve collaboration with civil society.

At the government level, conceptual reform of national security, the development of comprehensive, long-term climate security strategies and cross-governmental cooperation and information exchange are suggested. Finally, regional bodies (e.g., ASEAN) should develop climate security strategies and related funding mechanisms, facilitate diplomatic exchange and integrate a human security approach. If concrete measures such as these can be implemented in a timely manner, the security sector will become much better equipped to adequately respond to present and future climateinduced security threats in Southeast Asia.


This policy brief is originally published by DCAF - Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance and can be found here.

By Kevin Socquet-Clerc, Holly O’Mahony, Shiloh Fetzek, Maria-Gabriela Manea, A N M Muniruzzaman, and Fitriani Bintang Timur.

Photo credit: Flickr/NASA Johnson