A workshop at the Global Diplomacy Lab in Ljubljana, which is associated with the Federal Foreign Office, focused on the issue of the impacts that climate change can have on conflicts and how municipalities can contribute to their resolution and to securing peace in the world. One of the contributors was environmental engineer and DAAD alumnus Dr Moncef Bouaziz from Freiberg University of Mining and Technology.
Dr Bouaziz, there are many dimensions to climate change. It not only threatens our livelihoods, but also impairs our ability to prevent conflict. To what extent does that play a role in your work?
Climate change is not just the focal point of my work and research, it also influences my everyday life. We see daily reports in the media about extreme weather events, such as heatwaves and droughts, but also flooding. The increasing frequency and intensity of these events also increases local tensions regarding access to resources like food and drinking water. These can lead to incursions into neighbouring countries, simply because people are looking for other resources and security. I strongly believe that climate change and conflict are closely linked.
You and other participants presented solutions to this aspect at the closing event of the Global Diplomacy Lab in early November. What results did you arrive at?
Crucial for me was the realisation that we not only need to research climate change, but to also share our research results with local communities. We should listen to local people so that we can jointly develop and implement strategies to cope with climate change, and thus in turn minimise the risk of conflict. In other words, speak with them and not about them.
Was there an example of the interaction between climate change and conflict that particularly struck you?
I can think of several. Including the Ethiopian–Egyptian water crisis, triggered among other things by a new dam in Ethiopia that is affecting the water supply in Egypt. We also mentioned the Jordanian-Israeli conflict over the sharing of water resources. Another significant case study that we discussed, and that was mentioned in particular by the Executive Director of the ITF Enhancing Human Security in Slovenia, is spontaneous landmine detonation due to droughts and heat waves.
You originate from Tunisia. What role do climate-related conflicts play in your home country?
They are a serious problem, especially in southern and western Tunisia. The rise in sea levels there, the shortage of fresh water and the decline in crop yields threaten the livelihoods of many people. They are forced to leave their home regions and go in search of new habitats. Such a refugee movement naturally harbours immense potential for social conflict. This was further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which caused the unemployment rate to rise to over 18 per cent and forced thousands of people, including farmers, to leave their homes and farms.
How effective was your networking with other participants? And could you imagine being more involved in exchanging ideas with alumni in the future?
Networking is always the basis for our work. We need it to improve ourselves, to correct ourselves and to share our experiences – precisely because our perspectives are often so different. I think this exchange was hugely effective. Our discussions were very intense. And there is nothing else we can do. We need to share our knowledge and ideas so that we can meet the challenges of climate change.