Is there a cyclic relationship between ecological degradation and conflict? Well, a new study shows that a vicious cycle exists whereby degradation of resources leads to conflict, and the ensuing conflict leads to further resource degradation.
The report 2021 Ecological Threat report by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) noted that 11 of the 15 countries facing the worst ecological threats are at present in conflict, and another four are at a high risk of substantial falls in peace. These included Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Niger, Burkina Faso and Pakistan.
The report mentioned that breaking the cycle required improving ecological resource management and socio-economic resilience. It noted that highly resilient countries have the best ability to manage their natural resources while still catering for their socio-economic needs.
It mentioned that positive peace was a proxy for socio-economic resilience and helps in higher levels of adaptability. This included better water management, more efficient agricultural systems and the capability to import food when local production is insufficient. No country with a high level of peace has an extremely poor Environmental Threat Report score, underscoring the relationship between ecological fragility and conflict.
In the report, the authors say the 30 countries that face highest level of ecological threat are home to 1.26 billion people. Moreover, conflict had led to a steady rise in displaced people world over. At the end of 2020, 34 million people had been forcibly displaced from their home nations. Of this total, 23.1 million people or 68 per cent came from these 30 hotspot countries. Without a reversal of ecological degradation, these numbers are likely to increase.
The 2021 ETR also shows that 46 countries face low ecological threat levels, with 35 exposed to very low threats. Eighty-nine per cent of these countries have high Positive Peace scores. These countries also have low population growth. In 2021, their combined population is 1.96 billion people, and by 2050, this figure will slightly increase to 2.18 billion people. These countries are mainly located in Eastern and Western Europe, North America and South America, the report noted.
- About 4.7 billion people will reside in countries with high and extreme ecological threats in 2050. Their populations will account for 48.7 per cent of the world’s total population.
- Overall, 16 of the 20 countries with the highest ETR score are among the world’s least resilient countries, measured by the Positive Peace Index (PPI).
- The vulnerable countries with the least socio-economic resilience are clustered in three geographical regions: The Middle East and North Africa (MENA), sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia — these are also the three least peaceful
regions as measured by the Global Peace Index (GPI)
- North America and Europe are the two regions with the lowest average level of ecological threat.
- South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and MENA are the regions with the highest average level of ecological threat.
- Eleven of the 12 African countries in conflict in 2018 were experiencing food insecurity.
- From 1990 to 2020, a total of 10,320 natural disasters occurred globally. Flooding has been the most common natural disaster, accounting for 42 per cent of the total disaster count.
- The number and percentage of food-insecure people globally has risen every year since 2014. In 2020, 2.4 billion people or 30.4 per cent of the population were food insecure. This is an increase of 44 per cent since 2014.
- By 2050, the number of food-insecure people is expected to increase by 43 per cent to 3.4 billion people.
- The number of undernourished people is projected to rise by 343 million people by 2050, a 45 per cent increase from 2020. Currently, 768 million people are undernourished in 2020.
- By 2050, the global demand for food will increase by 50 per cent from current levels
- Europe has the lowest prevalence of food insecurity, with less than six per cent of its population affected.
- The five most undernourished countries are Somalia, the Central African Republic, Haiti, Yemen and Madagascar.
- Almost two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population faced food insecurity in 2020. This situation may worsen following the Taliban’s return to power in 2021.
- At the end of 2020, 82.4 million people were forcibly displaced globally — the highest number on record.
- In 2020, approximately 1 in 94 people globally were forcibly displaced compared to 1 in 161 in 2000.
- Low and very low peace countries account for 91 per cent of the people forcibly displaced from conflict and violence worldwide.
- Total number of forcibly displaced people has increased each year for the last nine years.