UN Security Council debate on the link between security and development

I notice that the UN Security Council has just had a debate on the relationship between development and international security: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2011/sc10172.doc.htm
A similar debate on climate change was raised by the British chairmanship of the UNSC in 2007: http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/04/18/environment-globalwarming-un-britain-dc-idUSN1736824820070418

This has prompted me to write a brief summary of a seminar I attended last week at Carleton University given by Gwynne Dyer on “The Security Implications of Climate Change”. Dyer was introduced as a military historian and journalist and gave a narrative on the relationship between climate change and security, which was informed by research conducted for a CBC radio series entitled “Climate Wars”.

The story Dyer told wove together many of the actors, events and documents that I had studied as part of my master’s dissertation on securitization and climate change and went something like this:

1) Climate change was currently grossly underestimated by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report because of the conservative nature of science and the lag between research findings and the publication process.
2) The effects of climate change on world food production and shared water resources had serious security implications that were of increasing interest to the US military.
3) We were entering a point of no return. Despite the fact that the international negotiations of the UN FCCC are currently taking place under ideal conditions we are no closer to reducing global emissions of carbon dioxide. This process is only going to get more difficult as the security implications of climate change become a national reality, which result in governments like the US taking drastic measures to secure their borders from increasing numbers of environmental refugees and the nation’s water supply from its neighbours.
4) There is hope and a possible way to cheat ourselves out of this situation – Geo-engineering.

Before Dyer offered the solution to his grand narrative I paused, I knew what was coming but I held my breath and hoped it would be otherwise. It seems that this can be one of the consequences of linking security to objects like climate change and now development, rather than climate change challenging how we perceive political reality, climate change gets written into that reality, leaving that reality—it’s necessity and power implications—unchecked.


Gwynne Dyer home page: http://www.gwynnedyer.com/

Extract from Gwynne Dyer’s book on Climate Wars: http://greenbooksnl.com/files/Climate%20Wars%20by%20Gwynne%20Dyer.pdf

An impressive list of interviewees with recordings: http://www.gwynnedyer.com/interviews.htm

CBC Climate Wars series: http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/features/2009/07/09/climate-wars-part-12-cd/

UNSC meeting (11/02/2011): http://climate-l.iisd.org/news/security-council-debates-links-between-security-and-development/?referrer=climate-change-daily-feed


About Hannah Hughes

I am a lecturer in the School of Law and Politics. My research interests stem from my concern with environmental degradation and include: Climate change; knowledge and power; global environmental politics; environmental security
This entry was posted in Security, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to UN Security Council debate on the link between security and development

  1. Christa says:

    What’s up, I read your blog regularly. Your story-telling style is awesome, keep up the good work!

  2. Yolanda says:

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  3. Were these the articles/events you were referring to above?

    Yvo de Boer’s Green Growth Agenda
    Ban Ki-moon ends hands-on involvement in climate change talks

    This is obviously the first step in him broadening his reach(!):
    Ban Ki-moon Takes Cimate Change to Hollywood

  4. Carl Death says:

    Thanks for this Hannah – really interesting, and something I’ve been thinking a bit about recently. I had students do a role-play reliving the 2007 UNSC debate in my module last year.
    I wonder though whether we are seeing a bit of a de-securitization of climate change recently – with the increasing focus on ‘green jobs’, eco-efficiency, green energy etc. Ban Ki-Moon has even given up on climate change negotiations and is returning to sustainable development. Rio in 2012 will focus on sustainable development, and will (I imagine) contain little in the way of security discourses and climate change.
    What do you think?

    • Very interesting that you should ask this, I mean it completely depends on how you conceptualise the success of securitization. When you go back and look at the UNSC debate and the framing that the government promoted at that event and the year or so previously, you see it’s a frame about the economics and developmental aspects of climate change and the need to move to a low-carbon economy. When looked at in this way the government’s move to securitize climate change can be viewed as strategic, through linking climate change to security and events in Darfur it was able to promote its conceptualisation of the climate change problematic to a wider audience. The government continues to expend diplomatic effort in promoting this particular conceptualisation today, only without the overt link to national and international security (energy security on the other hand, is often deployed). And I would say it has been pretty successful in getting acceptance for its delineation of what climate change means, although there is a lot to unpick there…

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