Switzerland thanks Niger for holding this important debate. The impacts of environmental degradation and climate change on affected populations are profound, especially when combined with existing conflict drivers.
Switzerland welcomes the fact that these topics are on the agenda of the Security Council, whether through resolution 2349 (2017) on the Lake Chad Basin or the open debate on climate and security in July. We welcome the increasing integration of language on climate-related security risks in the Council's outcomes. The need for improved assessment of such risks has been emphasized in various contexts on the agenda of the Council.
Switzerland would like to emphasize the following three points.
First: Environmental degradation can both result from and contribute to conflict. The impact on health as well as water and food security is harshest on civilians, particularly on those who are most vulnerable — children, persons with disabilities and persons that are displaced. Women very often bear the brunt of those adverse impacts. The depletion of natural resources or natural disasters can destroy livelihoods, cause displacement and degenerate into conflict. We call on the Security Council to pay greater attention to the interaction between environmental degradation, climate change, displacement, socio-political risks and conflict.
Second: the devastating humanitarian impacts of environmental degradation and climate change call for stronger action. Member states and UN entities must strengthen dialogue and coordination. The Climate and Security Mechanism at the UN Secretariat plays an important role in providing climate risk assessments to the Security Council and other organs of the system. The Peacebuilding Commission can also play an important role in supporting the Council on these issues. Early warning systems with the help of cutting edge technology are essential to develop adequate responses, including taking into account climate related risks in relevant mandates of UN missions.
Third: International Humanitarian Law (IHL) protects different aspects of the environment. For example, drinking water supplies are an indispensable object for the survival of the population. Protecting the environment also contributes to protect civilians. Switzerland calls on all member states and all parties to armed conflict to fully respect IHL, in order to protect the environment and alleviate the humanitarian impacts of such conflicts. We also encourage due consideration of the International Law Commission’s draft principles on protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts.
Environmental degradation and climate-related security risks and may have adverse effects on peace and security. They also increase the risk of future pandemics. We must improve coordination among the entire UN system and all relevant stakeholders in order to ensure a coherent response to these challenges and it is crucial that the Security Council plays a leading role in these efforts.