Shaping a Just World

Climate crisis meets security policy

Experts from Latin America and SIPRI analyze the nexus between security, justice and the climate crisis and present policy recommendations.

In September 2022, FES Colombia, in close cooperation with the renowned Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), set up a working group to examine the climate-security nexus in Latin America. For this purpose, an ensemble of experts from several countries - Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, the USA and the Netherlands - gathered for three work sessions in Bogotá.

With expert support from SIPRI, the group debated the various interrelations between security and the global climate crisis. The focus was on governance issues, the role of extractivism, rural development, nature conservation as well as environmental and climate justice. Policy recommendations emerged from these discussions.

After a year and a half of intensive collaboration, the findings and recommendations of this group were published in a joint report. This partnership with SIPRI also builds on an earlier cooperation with FES in West Africa and the Horn of Africa.

The Latin American context: dynamics of violence and social inequalities

An important aspect of the discussion is that in Latin America, climate and environmental problems are closely linked to social inequalities and political instability.

The region struggles with various forms of violence, from armed conflict to widespread criminal violence, which makes it one of the most violent regions in the world. Similarly, Latin America is one of the most dangerous regions in the world for environmentalists.

As a result, states and governments in the region are being undermined by democratic erosion, inequality and violence. A lack of effective governance is illustrated by the over-exploitation of natural resources, the rise of illegal economic activities and the inability of states to provide security for environmental leaders. Additionally, the use of state violence to suppress socio-environmental conflicts leads to them being masked by the rhetoric of public order and national security. However, the use of armed forces should be a last resort, under strict civilian control and accountability.

How can environmental justice and violence prevention be achieved? Four key messages

The experts agreed that environmental justice can change the dynamics of violence.

This requires:

Firstly, a strengthening of democratic leadership with the comprehensive participation of state actors, civil society and social movements. This effective governance by different interest groups increases the potential for violence prevention and environmental protection.

Secondly, the working group noted that the extractivist economic model prevalent in Latin America damages livelihoods and increases inequalities. Alternative development approaches that consider the worldviews of different peoples and the protection of their territories must be promoted.

Third, to achieve truth, justice and protection from repeated environmental injustice in Latin America, all stakeholders, including foreign companies and governments, must do their part. Legal frameworks most be updated and companies must move from voluntary to mandatory measures.

Fourth, the well-being of people, communities and the economy depends on nature. In the medium and long term, it is costlier to destroy nature than to protect it. Unjust socio-ecological and economic practices exacerbate social conflicts and cause considerable financial costs in the medium and long term. Protecting nature can increase well-being, and growing environmental awareness will lead to increased demand for environmental protection.

Seven policy recommendations: step by step towards environmental justice and violence prevention 

The working group has developed concrete policy recommendations to address the challenges of the climate crisis in a context of violence and insecurity. These recommendations include strengthening the leadership of indigenous and rural communities by facilitating access to finance and effective protection mechanisms for environmental activists; and fostering a stricter control and a more targeted use of armed forces, as well as a complete demilitarization of socio-ecological conflicts in the region.

The complete report and its policy recommendations have been published in English and Spanish. On the basis of the study, we at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung will continue to promote the discussion on climate and security in Latin America and beyond and are looking forward to the upcoming debate!

About the author

Oliver Dalichau heads the office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) in Colombia and the Latin American Network for Inclusive and Sustainable Security. Since 2003, he has been working for the FES in various fields, including adult political education or as office manager in Madagascar, Angola and Rwanda.



Delgado, Caroline; Hegazi, Farah; Barnhoorn, Anniek

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Delgado, Caroline; Hegazi, Farah; Barnhoorn, Anniek

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Bogotá, 2024

Download publication (300 KB, PDF-File)

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Joana Stalder
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