As more information on the likely
impacts of climate change enters the public debate, the outlook seems bleak. Endemic
poverty, protracted conflict, lack of investment and the encroaching threat of
climate change are narratives all too common,particularly for the world’s least
developed countries. However, as the global community ramps up its efforts in climate
change adaptation, further attention is needed not only on the looming threat
of climate change, but also on how to respond and the challenges or opportunities
that may emerge.
This article briefly examines climate action in Sudan, a country that has contended with recurring crisis due to both political upheaval and natural disasters. It outlines Sudan’s growing role in the international climate negotiations, adaptation planning processes, information gaps and it considers how climate change is influencing the humanitarian response.
The Sudanese Involvement in the International Climate Arena
Internationally, Sudan is widely known for the humanitarian crisis that erupted in Darfur in 2003 and it is regularly featured in the news for harrowing accounts of human rights abuses.However, less known is that over the past four years Sudan has become an important leader in the international climate change fora.In 2013, it was elected to chair the African Group of Negotiators (AGN), an alliance of African nations that has sought to advocate for a unified position during the international climate change negotiations.[i]Under the leadership of Sudan, the AGN was a strong voice for more financing for adaptation in the 2014 and 2015 negotiations.[ii]Similarly, in the wake of Rajendra Pachauri’s resignation in 2015, Ismail Elgizouli, a long-time Sudanese civil servant, took over as interim chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) until new leadership was elected. Sudan was also one of the first countries to start the process of developing a National Adaptation Plan(NAP), thus allowing Sudanese representatives to share best practices of their experiences in international meetings and conferences.
This is significant for several reasons. Firstly, it has enabled the Sudanese government to engage positively in the international sphere, working in concert with other nations to tackle a collective challenge.With Sudan’s president indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), opportunities for positive international dialogue and leadership have been limited. In this context, climate change can be used to help foster collaborations as it has enabled the Sudan government to present a constructive image internationally. Secondly, being under some form of US sanctions for almost two decades, Sudan’s access to trade, technology and finance has been significantly curtailed. Participating in the negotiations and undertaking the accreditation process, the government now has the opportunity to access much needed climate-related investment through international mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). While these channels present new opportunities for financial flows into Sudan, it is equally important that ensuing investments actually target the communities and the sectors most vulnerable to climate change, for example the water, agriculture and health sectors.
Climate Change Challenges in Sudan
Climate change projections for Sudan indicate higher temperatures, increased rainfall variability, and more severe droughts and floods.[iii]Adapting to such conditions will require a review of complex issues including land use planning and land tenure, public investment in the agricultural sector, access to potable water and water allocations between household, livelihood and multiple sectors of activity, early warning systems, and others.While in the past these issues have often been too politically-divisive for reform, efforts to promote effective adaptation and comply with commitments outlined in the Paris Agreement may help to encourage proper consultation and inclusive participation, research, and data collection that could inform current and future policies.
In Sudan, many natural resource management policies to date have been ineffective in part due to failed coordination across resource sectors and top down policy-making processes that lack consultation with local authorities and communities. This has been further exacerbated by a breakdown in environmental governance, displacement, and tensions between formal State-based and customary tenure and practices, which are undermining traditional coping strategies in Sudan.[iv]However, if adaptation-planning processes are properly supported, the Sudan government could undertake more routine situational analyses and conduct consultations with local communities, better documenting and understanding climate vulnerabilities and priorities. This may also extend to considerations around how men and women experience the impacts of climate change differently. Indeed, climate negotiators and gender advocates from Sudan have been vocal proponents for a better understanding of how gender roles may shape men and women’s coping strategies to climate change and related responses.[v] Current structural inequalities in the country such as lack of decision-making power and access to property, limited control of resources and assets, and a heavy work burden can undermine women’s ability to cope with the shocks and stresses of natural or man-made disasters.On the other hand supporting women’s roles in natural resource management and promoting their inclusion in decision-making can help support more secure livelihoods that are predominately dependent on climate-sensitive resource sectors.[vi]
The Resilience Agenda and Data Gaps
As outlined above, commitments to support countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change both in the Paris Agreement and in the new Sustainable Development Goals means donors will be increasingly investing in “climate smart” or “resilience” programming. While this represents a positive shift in how donors view and prioritize their investments, what this means in practice remains unclear and highly variable from programme to programme. Resilience can refer to multiple factors be it economic, ecological, political or social, yet to date there is no standardized way of defining resilience. In fact,many organizations fail to outline ways of objectively monitoring such changes or to consider how such factors interact to alter one’s resilience. They also tend to put the responsibility on the community or the people who are required to be resilient. Yet measuring these changes can be incredibly difficult particularly in countries like Sudan where movement is highly restricted, historical data is limited, and new data that is collected is often incomparable, inconsistent or unreliable. Yet if new investments are to indeed “build resilience” to climate change, there needs to be an honest assessment of what is unknown and how to account for or monitor uncertainties. There also needs to be a greater appetite for investments that are concerned with not only action, but that also focus on understanding the problem. In Sudan, for example, water scarcity has been identified as a key concern that will be exacerbated by climate change, yet in many areas basic rainfall data is not even available.
Shifts in Humanitarian Programming
While there may be global funds aimed at supporting climate resilience, Sudan has seen an overall decline in humanitarian funding. This in some ways has enhanced a culture of competition between responding agencies as needs across Sudan remain high. However, it has also fostered a growing acknowledgment that fundamental changes are necessary in the way emergency response is delivered in Sudan. More needs to be done with fewer resources and humanitarian organizations are recognizing that short term planning that fails to account for the environment and climate change will no longer be viable. Such approaches will ultimately lead to the degradation or depletion of natural resources, which underpin livelihoods and long-term sustainable development. There are already many examples where this has materialized. In Darfur where unplanned urbanization and explosive population growth has flourished, rates of water withdrawal are outpacing recharge and groundwater levels, leaving numerous IDP camps and settlements with high concentrations of people, vulnerable to water shortages.Similarly, high rates of deforestation near camps has meant communities are traveling sometimes all day to locate timber for their housing and fuel needs.
These realities are challenging organizations to think differently about the way their programmes are responding to humanitarian crises. The World Food Programme (WFP), for example has begun to shift its programming to promote a three-pronged approach that will support communities and countries to recover from recurrent shocks. It has also now formally partnered with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Sudan to promote improved environmental management within its humanitarian activities. Donors are also increasingly recognizing the value of ensuring international aid takes into account environmental sustainability and climate change. The UK recently committed £10 million to UNEP for a four-year programme, which aims to integrate best practice on climate resilience and environmental management into programming, planning and project delivery.
While these examples represent positive steps, the complex and varied ways in which climate change will impact countries, alter power dynamics, and influence programming requires constant examination. As countries and the international community seek to implement the pledges outlined in the Paris Agreement and support new investments aimed at climate resilience, responses must be nuanced and tailored to evolving contexts particularly in countries like Sudan. They should take into account post-colonial inheritance, structural inequalities and the interconnection between economic, social and environmental challenges. Domestic and international responses need to be sensitive to not only the challenges linked to climate change, but should also take advantage of the new opportunities that emerge. For example, adaption processes can help facilitate the development and implementation of more strategic, harmonized and evidence based policies. Finally, as more funding is invested to support climate resilience, donors should require an honest assessment of the data gaps on the environment and climate change and on the root causes of climate vulnerabilities and encourage a genuine culture of joint programming, information sharing and collaboration. In 2015 the world witnessed the historic passage of the climate change agreement in Paris, if people are to withstand the shocks and stresses of a changing environment this ambition and collaboration must also extend to the global response.
[i] Office of the Special Adviser on Africa. (n.d.). Paris Agreement. Retrieved from: Climate Change| Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, OSAA
[ii] Office of the Special
Adviser on Africa. (n.d.). Paris Agreement. Retrieved from:
Climate Change| Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, OSAA
[iii] Niang, I., O.C.
Ruppel, et al. (2014). Africa. In Climate
Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects.
Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
[iv] See, e.g. Chavunduka,
C & Bromley, DW (2011) Climate,
carbon, civil war and flexible boundaries: Sudan’s contested landscape.Land Use Policy 28: 907-916; Suleiman,
HM & Elagib, NA (2012) Implications
of climate, land-sue and land-cover changes for pastoralism in eastern Sudan.Journal of Arid Environments 85: 132-141
 President Omar Bashir was indicted by the ICC for five
counts of crimes against humanity. He has evaded two arrest warrants issued in 2009 and
are obliged to provide an update on their adaptation efforts every five years
Dereig IDP camp and Abu Shouk camp did indeed run dry as predicted and have had to be served with pipelines.
Cassidy Travis works at the intersection of environmental sustainability and human security for UNEP’s Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch (PCDMB). For the past year, Cassidy has been leading the implementation of a new project in Sudan that aims to improve natural resource governance in conflict-affected areas. Prior to her work in Sudan, Cassidy supported UNEP’s programming on disasters and conflicts and led research focusing on the links between gender, natural resource management and peacebuilding. She has also held several positions in the US government and NGO sector working on environmental policy and advocacy. Cassidy holds a B.A. in Political Science from San Diego State University, a M.A. in Environmental Economics and Policy from Duke University and certificate in International Development Policy from the Sanford School of Public Policy._______________________________________________________________________________
How climate change impacts the development worldwide, and in the developing countries in particular? How do you see the key challenges for the countries and international organizations in addressing the complex challenges related to peace and development? Leave your comments in the discussion section below.