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Background and approach 

An important component in the Climate Change, Environmental Security and Natural Disasters Programme was the emphasis on a human security approach in examining current and projected risks as well as identifying ways to address them. This programme looked at the significant linkages between state and social resilience, on the one hand, and regional climate security on the other. Integral to this analysis was examining regional ‘lessons learned’ in building social resilience in the face of climate change.

While scientific reports by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) have shown how various regions will be affected by climate change, there is a need to pursue a better understanding of the specific implications for the region so that targeted measures can be formulated. The complexities that come into play in these environmental insecurities are found in Southeast Asia. The region is comprised mostly of developing economies. Many countries are characterised by low lying coastal areas. Southeast Asia has also been regularly and adversely affected by natural disasters brought on by torrential rains and large-scale floods, and irregular weather patterns that increasingly bring on long periods of drought. Further, climate change is projected to create more ‘immediate’ risks for food, water and health security in the region.

The urgency of dealing with climate change has been highlighted by a number of scientists, research institutions, international bodies as well as policymakers. Yet, the global consensus on the gravity of the human security challenges posed by climate change is not matched by a consensus on how best to address this problem. Against the sharpening contours of Asian geopolitics, it was imperative to better understand the nature of social and human vulnerability and resilience. It was also imperative to examine state interactions in the region and the role of regional institutions in developing an effective approach to climate and environmental security, and disaster to management.


Programme Activities

  • Project on Climate Insecurities, Human Security and Social Resilience

As the largest and most populous continent, Asia is expected to bear the brunt of the effects of climate change. In more traditional security literature, climate change has increasingly been documented as a threat multiplier, with the potential to overstretch societies’ adaptive capacity and create or exacerbate political instability and violence. The expectations have been that governments should work cooperatively to avoid the kinds of tensions that might result, particularly in the face of alleged competition for resources and the cross-border challenges associated with the emerging phenomenon of ‘climate refugees’. Consequently, there has been more focus on climate mitigation as a preventive strategy while less attention has been paid to the importance of adaptation and building social resilience for those communities and countries most affected by climate change.

However, adaptation is key to minimising vulnerabilities and building social resilience to the impact of climate change, which in turn will contribute to shaping regional security and stability. The emphasis on social resilience, as opposed to a focus on climate change as a threat multiplier, reflects a non-traditional security approach to the issue. Building social resilience is pertinent for communities that aim to cope with the changes caused by climate change. It also means that strategies for climate adaptation will require multi-level as well as multilateral approaches, involving not only governments but also regional institutions, local communities and non-governmental actors.

This project thus aimed to come to a better understanding of the implications of climate change for Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia so that specific ‘climate security’ measures could be formulated. Bringing together reputable security and political analysts, economists and environmentalists, it examined climate change from a human security perspective at both national and regional levels.

  • Project on Climate Change and Food Security: Securing Asia Pacific’s Food Futures

Activities in the second year focused on the issue of climate change and food security. Climate change is projected to aggravate existing pressure on food security in the Asia- Pacific. The agriculture sector is central to food security in the region and the negative consequences of climate change on agricultural production will in turn affect the availability, access, stability and utilisation of food, all of which are critical elements of food security. The food crises in 2007 and 2008 have shown that the security dimensions of food crises are complex, multi-scale and interconnected, and that they range across human security, economic security and national security. This complexity of security concerns has generated demands for strategic policy responses in agricultural productivity, disaster management, social protection and community-based development.

Moreover, because these are no longer simply local problems, food security requires effective policy responses that are supported and facilitated by regional cooperation. While there has been growth in regional activity under ASEAN, ASEAN Plus Three, and international bodies such as the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, there has been little systematic assessment of the coherence or fragmentation of regional responses, best practices, policy gaps, and their contribution to the human and national security dimensions of food scarcity. This project aimed to evaluate regional food security frameworks in the Asia-Pacific by taking an interdisciplinary and multilateral approach and brought together regional experts from within academe, the policy community and civil society organisations.  

  • Project on Climate Change, Migration and Human Security in Southeast Asia

In its third year, the programme looked at the issue of climate change and migration in the region. The UN estimates that there could be at least 200 million environmentally-induced migrants worldwide by the year 2050. However, claims about the security implications of climate migration need to be revisited both empirically and conceptually. As opposed to securitising the climate migration issue as an exacerbating factor to traditional security concerns such as conflict and war, the programme sought to elaborate on a human security approach in analysing and responding to the potential insecurities generated by climate migration. Taking a different approach demanded alternative responses that should take into account a number of underlying vulnerabilities associated with the issue of climate migration such as food, livelihood, poverty, health, and disaster management. This project looked at how adaptation policies in the region were be able to address these challenges.

Posted on: 3/6/2014 12:03:00 AM  |  Topic: Climate Change, Environmental Security and Natural Disasters

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