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The role of diplomacy in the face of climate-fragility risks – Dan Smith


I think that the task of keeping the issues high on the agenda now is one of the
most challenging things we need to think about because as well as the SDGs and other
high-level international issues and gatherings, this year has been the year
of climate. And it comes to climax with COP21 in Paris and we need to work so that
if Paris succeeds the way we would like it to there isn’t a sense of ‘O.K., job done. Thanks now we can go home’. And on the other hand if it fails the way we
fear, then that there isn’t a kind of awful hangover after the party and this is the issue nobody wants to discuss for six months. I think that
the solution to both forms of the problem is to find ways in which it is
possible to actually get on with the task. If you look at the things that
we said in the recommendations from the
report to the G7 “A New Climate For Peace” What we’re saying there first of all is: “Change the ways in which you are working. Coherence begins at home, do it between the G7 states and
start reaching out.” We’re at this conference now in The
Hague on planetary security and here is a great opportunity for there to be some
reaching out happening and making new alliances and that’s got to continue more. And then I think that those good developments have to focus on
practical actions. It could be on new measures to guard poorer countries and food importing countries against food price volatility. It could be on a
practical mechanism for a shared instrument for assessing risk in ways which are
transparent to everybody and produce actionable conclusions. It could
be on a really thorough look at how development aid is given, so in fact so
as to bring it in line with the SDGs but also to bring it in line with the needs
of building resilience. So there’s a lot of possibilities to focus on and I think
thats what is required focus on practical tasks. It is all the
time problem that events come at such speed, kind of flying into the face of the foreign policy establishment – the
ministers and senior officials – that they have very little chance sometimes to long-term. They’re often working
with no exaggeration 16, 17, 18 hours a day on the crisis of the moment. How
can they be expected to focus on on the long-term? Of course the answer is that they
they have to be doing that, they have to find a way. If you look at the Middle
East now, the wars which are still going – Syria, chaos in Libya, the war in the
Sinai, Yemen. Nonetheless, you need to take a thought
for Tunisia and Algeria. And in both cases, climate variability could be a
trigger for increasing pressure on those governments to a point that they cannot
really sustain their own stability. In both cases I think that the issue of
food prices and the volatility of food prices could be the real problem. So yes, I mean it’s up to us from outside the government system to keep pressing and
prodding and talking to those who are within the official
circles. But I think at least in the case of the G7, at least they have
set up this working group to look at the climate-fragility recommendations
which we made in the report. And so there is at least an opportunity and a
structure for thinking a little bit more long-term and therefore for adding the
important to the urgent. And the last thing I’d say on this is that one way to ensure that the urgent doesn’t keep on trumping the important is to show
the links, to show the connections. The reason why Europe is facing the refugee
crisis at the moment goes back in time. It didn’t just come out of the blue. This
is not a problem created in 2015, this is a problem created over the previous
decade. And so a long-term view would have
helped avoid the urgent problem that we face now. As I often am telling people at
the moment I took office on the 1st of September
2015 and up until the 31st of August, SIPRI did not have a
climate and security focus. And now it does. The precise form that that will take – I
think we’ll focus on risk assessment as an aid to risk management. I think
that we will try to move from the general to the specific and develop assessments for
a number of high-risk countries trying to understand really not just what the
components of risks are, which I think we understand well, but how they interact
and therefore how you can judge what is the best action to take to try to manage
those risks. So that’s where the work will be focusing henceforth.

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