The policy brief Doing no harm while doing good: Climate and conflict sensitivity in dryland humanitarian projects was published in August 2022 to mark World Humanitarian Day. Produced jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), CGIAR and CARE, it follows on the heels of the Global Report on Food Crises 2022, which revealed that 70 per cent of people at crisis levels of food insecurity or worse were living in ten countries and territories in dryland regions.
At a global level, the world’s drylands are important for both food security and mitigating climate change as they account for around 60 per cent of the world’s food production and 50 per cent of livestock while containing 27 per cent of the world’s forest area and storing 30 per cent of soil organic carbon.
The policy brief provides an in-depth analysis of three projects in ecologically fragile areas in five countries in which people are facing protracted displacement: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger and Uganda. It highlights the fragility of ecosystems in humanitarian settings and explains how competition for natural resources in agrosilvopastoral areas often leads to conflict between host communities and displaced people.
It argues that humanitarian interventions should address the environmental impact of displaced populations and that the protection of dryland natural resources must be seen as a vital part of programme implementation. The report aims to provide decision-makers with insights and know-how that will enable them to adopt a humanitarian-development-peace nexus approach to humanitarian activities in ecologically fragile dryland environments.
The policy brief proposes integrating environmental concerns into interventions, including projects that focus on just one area of development. For example, interventions that target food security should also promote access to sustainable cooking energy in order to reduce the need for displaced populations to gather and burn charcoal and fuelwood.
For this to happen, a baseline environmental assessment of local fuelwood, land, water and other resources must be carried out in preparation for the project design phase. The impact on resources should be monitored throughout.
Every intervention in the humanitarian area – even those that do not specifically target conflict resolution – should include a peace promotion component or at least pursue a conflict-sensitive approach, according to the policy brief. In addition, decisions need to be based on a sound understanding of the local context and informed by up-to-the-minute data.