Around 1.3 billion people at high risk of conflict and displacement: Report

The most vulnerable countries are clustered in the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Friday 08 October 2021

Around 1.26 billion people across 30 countries are suffering from both extreme ecological risk and low levels of resilience, according to a new report

These countries are least likely to be able to mitigate and adapt to new ecological threats, leading to mass displacement, the report said.

The report, Ecological Threat Report (ETR) 2021: Understanding ecological threats, resilience and peace, was released by the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP), an international think tank. 

Data from over 2,500 sub-national administrative units in 178 countries were assessed for threats relating to food risk, water risk, rapid population growth, temperature anomalies and natural disasters. 

Of the 178 countries in the ETR, 30 were identified as hotspots for having low levels of resilience and a medium to extremely high catastrophic threat score. As many as 13 faced extremely high and 34 others faced high ecological threats. 

The most vulnerable countries are clustered in the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, according to the report. 

Ecological degradation and conflict work in a vicious circle, whereby one  degradation of resources leads to conflict and vice versa. 

Climate change will have an amplifying effect, causing further ecological degradation and pushing some countries through violent tipping points, said the report.

Of the 15 countries most threatened, nine are in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by three in south Asia. 

As a region, south Asia is the worst-placed, with water and food risks driving the average ETR score in the region. 

In sub-Saharan Africa, the score is influenced by high levels of population growth, which will place increased pressure on existing food and water scarcity. 

The region has the highest proportion (66 per cent) of its population suffering from food insecurity, highlighting its severity of water and food risks. 

Population growth and resource scarcity are intrinsically linked with conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, said the report. 

Other key findings of the report are:

  • Eleven of 15 countries with the worst environmental threat scores are currently classified as being in conflict. Another four are classified as at high risk of substantial falls in peace, highlighting the relationship between resource degradation and conflict
  • Global food insecurity has increased by 44 per cent since 2014, affecting 30.4 per cent of the world's population in 2020, and is likely to rise further.
  • From 1990 to 2020, a total of 10,320 natural disasters occurred globally. Flooding has been the most common natural disasters, accounting for 42 per cent of the total disaster count.
  • In 2020, 177 countries and territories recorded a warmer average temperature compared to their historical average temperatures.
  • Eleven countries are projected to double their population between 2021 and 2050. They are all in sub-Saharan Africa. The three countries with the largest projected 
  • increases in population are Niger, Angola and Somalia, where the populations will increase by 161, 128 and 113 per cent, respectively.

The report recommended a policy to combine health, food, water, refugee relief, finance, agricultural and business development into one integrated agency in high-risk areas and empowering local communities.

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