Climate change, conflict, and development in Karamoja, Uganda: reinterpreting the threat multiplier discourse

Authors: Daniel Abrahams*, University of South Carolina
Topics: Environment, Africa, Development
Keywords: Climate; Conflict; Securitization; Discourse; Africa; Uganda
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon B1, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

That climate change can affect conflict and conflict vulnerability remains a deeply contested idea in academic communities. Yet acceptance in policy communities is much more widespread. Amongst policy institutions, climate-conflict discourses are largely defined by the ‘threat multiplier’ framing whereby climate change can hasten or exacerbate conflict, but not cause it outright. This idea was popularized in a 2007 report issued by the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA). Though the idea of climate change as a threat multiplier was first put forward for defense and security purposes, governmental and non-governmental organizations across a wide spectrum of political and operational foci have adopted this discursive framing. In this paper, I demonstrate the risks and limitations of the threat multiplier discourse when used for development purposes. This paper is based on data collection centered on two programs being implemented by a major international NGO in Karamoja, Uganda, both of which seek to address the overlapping challenges of climate change and conflict. Utilizing a mixed-methods approach across the multiple geographies of these programs – including the field sites, field offices, regional offices, and domestic headquarters, I directly interrogate how the climate-conflict nexus is interpreted across the multiple geographies of programming, the factors that define what programming happens on the ground, and how key actors conceptualize and approach joint climate-conflict challenges.

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