Nepal is slowly emerging from a decade of civil war (1996–2006). Despite the challenges that remain, the promulgation of a new constitution after a devastating earthquake in 2015 and the recent elections in 2017 and 2018 have given cause for optimism that the political process is maturing. However, while the overall security situation has improved considerably and is stable, important underlying drivers and structural causes of conflict still exist. Climate change accentuates Nepal’s economic and political vulnerabilities. Climate impacts can act as a stressor on existing drivers and structural causes of conflict, adding an additional layer of risk to Nepal’s resilience.
This brief identifies three major pathways through which climate impacts undermine security:
- Climate change increases livelihood insecurity, especially of marginalised groups.
- Climate change exacerbates resource and identity conflicts.
- Federalist reform can undermine or boost resilience building and the state’s legitimacy.
Nepal’s social, economic and political vulnerabilities are accentuated by climate change. Climate change can act as a stressor on the existing drivers and structural causes of conflict, adding an additional layer of risk that exacerbates the challenges of livelihood insecurity, resource and identity conflicts and institutional reform. The new constitution and federalist reform is a risk in terms of conflict relapse and an opportunity for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. In order to succeed, the reform process needs to address the grievances of minority groups and provide certainty over access to natural resources — in particular land rights — to reduce tension between the government and minority groups.
The dependence on agriculture — two thirds of the Nepali population work in the sector — combined with the country’s susceptibility to climate change and ongoing issues around natural resources and governance reform present several entry points for addressing climate fragility risks. Broadly, the entry points need to address the environmental effects of climate change on resources such as land and water as well as the impact it is having on governance and society. These impacts are interrelated and need to be approached holistically. At the same time, Nepal needs to be prepared for the new social, political and economic context the COVID-19 pandemic has created and be able to respond to the fragility it has created in a conflict-sensitive manner.
For further information, please visit the Climate Security Expert Network (CSEN) website.