Addressing the Impacts of Climate-related Disasters on International Peace and Security

statementStatement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See

Security Council Open Debate on
Addressing the impacts of climate-related disasters
on international peace and security

New York, 25 January 2019

Mr. President,

The Holy See thanks the Presidency of the Dominican Republic for convening this Open Debate addressing the impacts of climate-related disasters on international peace and security. The Secretary-General has said that “climate change is the defining issue of our time – and that we are presently at a defining moment”.[1] That’s why this debate is so timely.

Climate-related disasters affect all countries, rich and poor alike. We are witnessing the effects of extreme weather conditions across the world from the Caribbean to the Pacific.

In the past year, “immense distress and suffering caused by heavy rains, flooding, fires, earthquakes and drought have struck the inhabitants of different regions of the Americas and Southeast Asia.”[2] Last August in Kerala, heavy precipitation caused flooding that led to massive loss of life and displacement of population, meanwhile in other parts of the planet there were cases of insufficient rainfall, “where droughts and desertification add to the potential for instability and conflict through loss of livelihood and food insecurity,”[3] thereby increasing the number of those in need of humanitarian assistance.

Apart from the tragic loss of life caused by such extreme climactic changes and the massive financial costs that such disasters entail, greater sensitivity and proactivity are needed to prevent conflicts that all too frequently ensue as national and regional stability is affected due to lack of access to food and clean water and their inevitable impact on the movement of peoples, sometimes leading to both forced and protracted displacement. Suffice it to recall how tensions increase because of the seasonal phenomenon of transhumance, as discord between farmers and pastoralists, vying for limited or diminishing resources, is aggravated and, in some instances, becomes a further factor causing instability, especially in areas where armed groups are present, taking advantage of the absence of State structures and poor governance.

In the Lake Chad basin, which has long provided a source of life in the desert for millions, we are faced, because of ongoing regional conflicts and the threat and extremist expansion, with refugees and internally displaced populations struggling to find water, to say nothing of the impact on fishing, further compounding poverty and leaving already extremely vulnerable populations in even more desperate conditions. If indeed extreme climate disasters are indiscriminate, such examples show that the poorest pay the highest cost. According to recent studies, those in poorer countries are five times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather than their counterparts in wealthier nations.[4] The correlation between extreme poverty and the effects of climate change and climate related disasters, including the negative impacts such poverty can have on the susceptibility of individuals to recruitment tactics from non-state armed groups, show the need for decent work, training, education, solidarity, social protection and respect for fundamental human rights, especially for those most vulnerable to climate extremes.[5]

We must act urgently. The recent Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted five essential elements of a global response to climate change: enhancing multilevel governance, improving institutional capacities, promoting technological innovation, strengthening policy instruments and climate finance, and enabling lifestyle and behavioral change.[6] Immediate action on these elements is needed not only to prevent the manifold consequences of rising temperatures on our common home, but also to hold off peace and security concerns from preventable climate disasters. These actions are part of the “ecological conversion” that Pope Francis is strongly encouraging the international community, and each person, to undergo.[7]

Mr. President,

This Open Debate is an opportunity to take a hard look at some of these problems and offer ambitious, coherent and action-oriented solutions that show respect for the planet and concern for the integral development of all. Speaking to diplomats accredited to the Holy See at the start of this New Year, Pope Francis expressed his hope for a “more decisive commitment on the part of States to strengthening cooperation for urgently combating the worrisome phenomenon of global warming”. In this regard, “the support of the international community is urgent for favoring the development of infrastructures, the growth of prospects for future generations, and the emancipation of the most vulnerable sectors of society,”[8] lest these be forced to fight for food and wage war for water because of our failure to act.

Thank you, Mr. President.

1. Secretary-General’s Remarks on Climate Change, New York, 10 September 2018.
2. Pope Francis, Address to the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See for the
Traditional Exchange of New Year Greetings, 7 January 2019.
3. Letter dated January 2 2019 from the Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic to the United
Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, S/2019/1.
4. Uprooted by Climate Change, Oxfam International, November 2017.
5. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Intervention at the High-Level Segment at the XXIV Session of the Conference of
the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Katowice (Poland), 3 December 2018.
6. Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees C, Special Report of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
Chapter 4, October 2018.
7. Laudato Si’, paragraphs 216-221.
8. Pope Francis, Address to the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See for the Traditional Exchange of New Year Greetings, 7 January 2019.


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