AMMAN, Jordan (Oct. 5, 2022) – Climate change, combined with extensive environmental destruction caused by nearly a decade of conflict, threatens to exacerbate existing tensions in Yemen. The conflict has contributed to the decimation of critical resources, such as water and agricultural land, and led to the loss of livelihoods and forced displacement. All these factors have the potential to lead to new conflicts in Yemen, warns Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) in its new report, “Risking the Future: Climate Change, Environmental Destruction, and Conflict in Yemen.”
“Even if the conflict in Yemen were to end today, Yemenis will have to prepare for another battle: the fight against climate change,” says Niku Jafarnia, a CIVIC researcher and author of the report. “We found that resource-based conflicts in Yemen will increase in the coming years as water and land continue to be depleted. The country will bear the environmental scars of warfare in its soil and water sources for decades to come.”
CIVIC spoke with communities and individuals across Yemen – primarily in Aden, Marib, and Taiz – to understand the impacts that climate change and the conflict have had on their livelihoods, access to resources, and inter- and intra-community relations. The research concluded that the combined effects of climate change and environmental degradation caused by warfare are threatening Yemenis’ rights to life, food, and water. When faced with a lack of natural resources and livelihoods, people in Yemen are often forced to move and tensions may erupt between the displaced and host communities, leading to local disputes and conflicts.
Muna Luqman, founder of Food4Humanity, a women-led civil society organization in Yemen, said, “Families are running away from the conflict … then they end up fighting with the host communities over the limited water sources.”
However, this is not a new issue in Yemen. As early as 2010, access to water and land were described as a leading cause of conflict. This is likely to worsen as warring parties have directly attacked food and water infrastructure and threatened farmland and water sources by placing landmines on and near these critical resources.
Women, children, and displaced persons are more vulnerable to climate change, resources scarcity, and related risks. Women and girls who are primarily responsible for fetching water must walk long distances to retrieve it and are at increased risk of stepping on landmines.
“Even if there is not a conflict because of climate change yet, it’s a serious risk for causing future conflict,” an internally displaced person from Sirwah district living in Al-Sumayya Camp in Marib told CIVIC.
Among several recommendations, CIVIC calls on the Government of Yemen to:
- Establish mechanisms to effectively manage water and food resources and to address water and land scarcity caused by landmines.
- Develop a mechanism to address community-level conflicts over resource-sharing, particularly regarding water-based conflicts.
CIVIC also urges the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen to ensure that any peace process includes and prioritizes a plan to address the impact of climate change, environmental degradation, and conflicts related to resource scarcity.
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) is an international organization dedicated to promoting the protection of civilians in conflict. CIVIC envisions a world in which no civilian is harmed in conflict. Our mission is to support communities affected by conflict in their quest for protection and strengthen the resolve and capacity of armed actors to prevent and respond to civilian harm. CIVIC was established in 2003 by Marla Ruzicka, a young humanitarian who advocated on behalf of civilians affected by the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, CIVIC has a presence in conflict zones and key capitals throughout the world.
In Yemen, CIVIC focuses its work on four areas: advocacy, community-based protection, trainings, and research. We collaborate with civilian leaders, security actors, and government ministries to improve protection outcomes and enhance trust between civilians and security actors throughout the country.