RESOLVING CLIMATE CONFLICTS WITH MEDIATION: REDESIGNING EARTH’S DESTINY.
Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations has termed Climate Change as “the defining issue of our times.” Climate change has become increasingly pervasive and evidently visible from the raging wildfires in California to devastating floods and cyclones in the Asia-Pacific region. The issue is no longer merely environmental in nature but has a direct impact on people, their livelihood and sustenance. With this background, it is quite clear that there is a definite link established between climate change and conflict, as the former compounds existing risk factors such as scarcity of natural resources and rise in geo-political tensions over their sharing of such resources. This threat to peace and security requires intervention by the United Nations and the global community with the help of effective Mediation Diplomacy or what can be otherwise termed as “Climate Diplomacy.”
HOW CLIMATE CHANGE GIVES RISE TO CLIMATE CONFLICTS
Climate change concerns are not restricted to any one nation or continent. It is a global phenomenon and has become a major concern for the world. As has been highlighted various times by UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), climate change does not directly give rise to a conflict but has a major impact in the escalation of a conflict. For example, climate change has caused acute water scarcity in many parts across the globe and if there exists a place with a limited water resource like a Well or Tube Well, upon which hundreds of people depend for their daily water requirements, there may arise a conflict after the exhaustion of that resource. Moreover, the rising global temperatures increase the risks of natural disasters like drought, floods or earthquakes, further limiting the use of natural resources for human consumption. These natural disasters, in turn, cause a major migratory movement, either within the territory of their own countries or even beyond the borders, and such migrants are often addressed as Climate Refugees. These situations are a matter of great political and diplomatic concerns. Therefore, such climate concerns can only be resolved through interstate cooperation and action. Mediation is a safe way to find an amicable solution through a possible agreement between states and have a peaceful relation.
RESOLVING CLIMATE CONFLICTS THROUGH DIPLOMATIC MEDIATION
Diplomatic Mediation is a mediation session between diplomats of two countries, representing their respective countries and their interests. It could not only help us fight climate change but also build and strengthen Inter-State relations. For a better understanding of how a climate conflict can really be resolved through Mediation we must carefully analyze the following illustration:
An acute water scarcity exists in the Middle-Eastern and North Africa (MENA) region. An effective solution to this problem came from Israel with the Sorek Desalination Plant, i.e. the world’s biggest sea water desalination plant using reverse osmosis process. This plant has a capacity of 624,000m3/day through which it can solve the problem around the whole of Israel and parts of Jordan and Palestine. This plant, however, uses a great amount of fossil fuels for the process of desalination, which means the purpose is solved at high costs and with limited resources. It would be better therefore, if Sorek Plant could run on Renewable Energy resources. Jordan has a geographically suitable location, lying within the solar belt of the world and having a base producing 182.5 MWh of electric energy from Solar Power Plant, in addition to energy production through other renewable sources such as wind, biomass, nuclear, etc. Thus, if a Bi-lateral Treaty between Jordan and Israel is made for renewable energy and clean drinking water (desalinated water), it may build a stronger tie and strengthen the relation between the governments as the issues have strong political and social agendas for both nations and their people.
The relation between Israel and its neighboring states is but a matter of concern. Hence, bringing the two countries to a table to be willing to find an amicable solution to the water scarcity problem can be achieved through Mediation. Climate Conflict Mediation can ensure the true goal of the fight against climate change is achieved through mutual cooperation among the nations where the party states are directly involved in resolving the issues, through their representatives negotiating for the benefits of the public at large. Therefore, diplomatic mediation helps resolve climate conflict issues with ease and precision.
The role of a Mediator is also significant in such Mediation Sessions. Such a situation needs to be dealt with minimum political interventions and high climate sensitivity. The Mediator would be facilitating the conversation for both parties and ensuring that the parties have their interests clear and are open to talks. They would help the States build trust in one another and highlight the importance of such agreements, if and when required. Thus, a mediator could possibly help the states create a win-win situation as highlighted in the above-stated example. If required, the Mediator may even seek assistance of a rightful expert in the matter with the consent of the party states. The Expert may assist both the parties and the Mediator in finding the best solution to the problem. Such progress could give birth to a climate friendly bilateral or multilateral agreement between the participating states, and the true purpose of the Mediation could be achieved.
ROLE OF MEDIATION IN THE UNFCC AND THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT
In 2017, the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce organized a panel discussion which essentially paved way for ensuring the support of Mediation to the Paris Climate Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It was observed that opportunities related to Mediation and other Dispute Resolutions Mechanisms were explored that included advisory and contentious processes. Such Mediation may be utilized by the concerned States to make compliance with the Paris Agreement, when coupled with incentives. Further, Mediation and other Dispute Resolution Mechanisms may also advocate for stable legal frameworks and aid in the development of international laws that essentially promote international Mediation. In finality, such Mediation shall be quintessential to ensure the domestic compliance and implementation of the UNFCC and the Paris Climate Agreement.
Apart from a Normative analysis, the example of U.S.A. formally exiting the Paris Climate Agreement helps us comprehend the exponential rise in need for international Mediation and Negotiation, because such exits are likely to have an impact on the international community as a whole and trigger a ripple effect that may act counter-productive to the objectives and rationale of the aforementioned agreements. In such scenarios, Mediation proves to be an extremely vital element to facilitate international diplomacy coupled with settlement resolution acting as an enabler and protector of the environment and its people.
In 2009, a report was submitted to the Security Council wherein the United Nations Secretary General acknowledged the existence of potential advantages that reasonably skilled and unbiased Mediation can bring to the table for peaceful settlement of conflicts. Mediation is based on a party control approach rather than a Mediator control approach wherein the Parties follow their own terms and conditions to finally settle. Such an approach is quintessential to resolution of conflicts brought about by global climate change onto the States in an international context. This positive shift towards Mediation is already evident from the 2019 Agenda of the Oslo Forum, a yearly conference of Mediators. They incorporated the issue and need of Mediation in Climate Change wherein the Mediators essentially conversed how Mediation-centric dialogues are sustainable for the resolution of climate change-related conflicts. Such high preference was given to Mediation since draconian Parochial or Partisan-based negotiations are highly likely to be counter-productive in ensuring peace and harmony in the international community. Further, Mediation allows respectful and active participation and engagement from both Parties to reach at a common consensus for solution-building.
Rather than resorting to a stance wherein two or more States drag each other to International Courts of Law, Mediation is a perfect solution to the conflict at hand. It is agreeable that Mediation mandates the need for patience, mutual discussion, and diplomatic dialogues, which may not be observed in all cases due to political interests or any other reason. In such a scenario, the onus should be on the States to undertake Dispute Resolution Mechanisms and make provisions for the same by approaching it from a logical and rational standpoint, as formal legal processes lead to a heavy dent on the States’ resources. Climate conflicts have become a major political and diplomatic agenda in various countries and therefore, Mediation can help them achieve their goals by moving towards an eco-centric solution rather than an anthropocentric one.
Further, the goal and aim of the Mediators and the International community should be to develop a web around these dispute resolution processes, that have pros outweighing its own cons and that of traditional legal processes. Therefore, mutual and balanced efforts from both ends of the spectrum is called for.
Authored by Iram Majid IMI AICM MCIArb. Director Indian Institute of Arbitration and Mediation and Executive Director Asia Pacific Centre for Arbitration and Mediation. She is co-founder and secretary general of International Federation of Mediators France.