The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) take the helm in exploring the emerging nexus of climate-conflict-environment and in understanding how it affects community resilience, specifically in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in the Philippines.  

In a report published today, titled “Understanding Climate, Conflict, and Environmental Impacts in the BARMM,” HHI and MSU-IIT highlight the need for further inquiry on the nexus. The report was based on the two-day workshop organized by HHI and MSU-IIT in May 2023 in Iligan City. HHI and MSU-IIT convened members of 29 local and international organizations from the BARMM government, civil society, academia, and United Nations agencies that have programming relevant to the issues affecting the region.  

“If we, as a global society, are to avert the most catastrophic consequences of climate change, we must understand how climate change-related impacts affect the world’s most vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Vincenzo Bollettino, program director of HHI Resilient Communities. 

Bollettino underscored the need to mark a starting point in discussing the conceptual links of these areas with professionals from diverse disciplines to identify solutions that save lives in the short term and ensure social and economic vitality in the long term. 

According to Prof. Sittie Noffaisah Pasandalan, assistant dean of MSU-IIT’s College of Arts and Social Sciences, the workshop opened possibilities and the creation of new realities for the envisioned BARMM and the attainment of sustainable peace in Mindanao. 

Prof. Pasandalan added that since BARMM is still in a transition period, it needs support from other organizations and institutions in the crafting of its laws and programs – especially on climate change adaptation and peacebuilding – towards the realization of its being an autonomous region. 

The report identified the following gaps that key actors from the humanitarian, development, peacebuilding, climate, and environment disciplines could focus on moving forward. 

Addressing data needs 

With stakes being incredibly high, there is a need for more responsive programming among organizations and agencies, especially in the BARMM context where the climate-conflict-environment nexus continues to worsen. 

Yet, substantial, disaggregated data on the impacts of climate change, disasters, conflict, and environmental degradation from the government and other reliable sources remain limited. 

Meanwhile, local media is best believed by local communities when reporting these impacts; however, media practitioners are not much involved in the current dialogue. 

Breaking down silos through multidisciplinary discussions 

Participants mentioned their organizations discuss and respond to issues about climate change, conflict, and environmental degradation; however, they do so in silos. 

Thus, they pledged to sustain conversation and collaboration to eventually develop strategies that can address long-standing problems and support relevant initiatives in BARMM. 

“If we can create sustained dialogue and a common platform for addressing the intersection of climate impacts, peace and security and the environment, this will serve as a model not only for the Philippines but for other countries working to mitigate the impacts of climate change in already fragile contexts,” said Dr. Bollettino. 

However, the voice of local communities and marginalized sectors remains limited in the current climate dialogue despite being the immediate casualties of these issues; thus, there is a call to involve more stakeholders from grassroots community leaders, faith-based groups, indigenous peoples, youth, and security sector, among others. 

Engaging the BARMM government, private sector 

Addressing the nexus will not be realized without the involvement of the most influential players in the BARMM government and private sector. 

During the initial convening, only one representative from the BARMM government joined. Meanwhile, there was no representative from the private sector despite being responsible for accelerating climate change. 

Participants believed these actors may be the missing link in addressing climate change. 

They expressed their interest in discussing with private sector representatives their potential in driving positive change on the nexus. On the other hand, they expressed their interest in bringing the BARMM government into the conversation, especially in shaping policies, programs, and projects that address the emerging nexus. 

Access the full report: 

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