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Drought, Desertification and Displacement: Re-Politicising the Climate-Conflict Nexus in the Sahel


Policy and media discourses have frequently evoked the existence of a nexus between climate change and conflict. The Sahel, where conflicts are on the rise and environmental degradation undermines access to dwindling natural resources, appears to provide a most-likely case study to assess the climate-conflict nexus hypothesis. Looking at long-term trends, an analysis of the Sahelian droughts in the 1970s-80s and of the ongoing (alleged) desertification of central Sahel highlights the relevance of a political ecology approach to the climate-conflict nexus. While neither sufficient nor necessary to trigger armed violence, climatic changes may fuel violent conflicts because they contribute to an erosion of fragile socio-economic systems and the relative mechanisms of conflict regulation. Governance schemes carry crucial “weight” in making conflicts over natural resources veer towards either violent escalation, or peaceful management. But it also notes that in the long run governance mechanisms themselves can be affected or disrupted by the impact of changing climatic conditions.

Paper prepared in the context of the New-Med Research Network.

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