10 May 2024

Humanitarian action on climate and conflict

Narratives, challenges and opportunities

The worsening impacts of climate change on the world’s most vulnerable people place the management of climate and conflict risk squarely within the humanitarian domain. The ways in which humanitarian actors approach these challenges matter, both for the effectiveness of emergency response and for broader climate action in fragile and conflict-affected situations.

This report and policy brief, produced as part of the USAID-funded project Catalysing cohesive action on climate and security, look at how humanitarian actors are setting out their roles, examining their emerging approaches to addressing and reducing needs triggered by climate hazards in fragile and conflict-affected settings, and linking with the work of other actors. It identifies consistent themes, emerging tensions and implications on how to optimise the contribution of humanitarian actors to the whole-of-system efforts needed to build climate resilience.

These are some of the key messages conveyed by these publications:

  • Humanitarian actors are clear that there is no humanitarian solution to worsening climate impacts, and that significant increases in adaptation and resilience efforts in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS) are essential to prevent humanitarian crises from spiralling. But, in the absence of these investments, the humanitarian system is increasingly required to address climate impacts in these contexts; something it has neither the resources nor the skills to take on.
  • There is a clear consensus on how humanitarian action should adapt: it needs to be more anticipatory, more balanced (between building resilience to and addressing impacts of crises), more collaborative and more local. But policy has moved faster than practice and most actors are still operating with a limited toolbox based on patchy evidence.
  • Better collaboration with climate and development actors to build systemic, durable climate resilience is a clear goal but is impeded by several factors. These include the absence of climate and development actors from the most fragile settings, differing understanding of and priorities for climate action, and inconsistent donor positions.

This is a short summary of a report and policy brief, published by ODI (Overseas Development Institute) in April 2024, authored by Sophie Tholstrup and Mauricio Vazquez.

Photo credit: United Nations OCHA via Flickr