FEATURE | 6 Oct 2023

How climate change affects conflict dynamics in Iraq

A woman collects water from a water tank stored outside her home in the village of Al-Bouzayyat, which sits on the bank of a former canal which has dried up, in Diwaniya, Iraq, October 11, 2022. Iraq has been named the fifth-most vulnerable country to climate breakdown by the UN in 2022. Photo © picture alliance / REUTERS | Alaa Al-Marjani

Our new report analyses the interplay of climate change and local conflicts in Iraq. Read recommendations on how to address climate security risks.


Addressing the multifaceted impacts of climate change and the security risks associated with it requires both immediate and long-term strategies. However, adapting to climate change, mitigating impacts of the climate crisis, and addressing climate security risks become much more challenging in countries scarred by the legacies of war and violent conflicts, such as Iraq.

How do changes in temperature and precipitation alter access to natural resources like land and water in Iraq? What does this mean for already existing conflicts between different communities? And ultimately, what can be done to mitigate local conflicts and build peace in Iraq?

To shed light on these questions our latest report analyses case studies from three districts: Tal Afar, located in the Nineveh governorate, Makhmur in the Erbil governorate, and Al-Rifai, a constituent of the Dhi-Qar governorate. In these districts, our researchers identified climate-related factors that amplify local conflict dynamics and security risks.

Our researchers compared cases from the Tal Afar, Makhmur, and Al-Rifai districts to identify climate-related causes for conflicts in local communities.

In Al-Rifai, for example, increased temperatures and less rain – as a result of climate change – have led to crop failures and a loss of livestock which forced many farmers to abandon their lands and move to more urban environments. With increased competition for jobs and resources, too often conflicts arise between the newly arrived former farmers and the host communities. The findings of the report also illustrate how in Tal Afar and Makhmur competition for resources, exacerbated by a lack of capacities within local authorities to support communities in need and provide them with alternative livelihoods, can escalate into violent conflicts.

Climate change affects everyone, regardless of their background or location. By working together and listening to each other's experiences, we can create more inclusive and effective solutions.Activist from Al-Rifai district

Climate change and conflict go hand in hand – therefore, collective action is needed!

While the international community must support Iraq in finding peaceful solutions for climate-induced conflicts, it is equally crucial for local and national Iraqi stakeholders to continue their efforts in addressing climate-related stress factors affecting local communities.

Our report gives key recommendations for finding sustainable and inclusive solutions to climate security risks while emphasizing the immediate urgency to support communities in need. The main recommendations include:

  • Advocate for community-based dialogue solutions to climate security risks

    Facilitate inclusive problem-solving dialogue processes that establish connections between key local leaders and relevant provincial and national actors. These processes play a pivotal role in informing or adapting the national strategies being developed at district level.

  • Promote inclusive mediation efforts to reach balanced agreements on water resources

    Support mediation efforts aimed at resolving governance bottlenecks stemming from the disputed territories issue, which currently hinder the implementation of solutions and actions that can help alleviate the effects of the climate crisis.

  • Enhance the capacity of government entities to manage natural resources

    Strengthen the capacity of governmental actors in natural resources management and climate-resilience policy responses, in conjunction with efforts to combat administrative corruption.

You can read more about our findings and key recommendations in the report.

The study is published as part of the project “Enhancing understanding and supporting local level dialogue to address climate security risks in Iraq” which was implemented by the Berghof Foundation and Peace Paradigms Organisation (PPO) with support from the Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH. It is recommended that this report be reviewed in conjunction with a related study conducted by the Berghof Foundation and Peace Paradigms Organisation, which delves into understanding the intricate relationship between climate change and conflict dynamics in additional districts across Iraq. This report is scheduled for publication towards the end of 2023.

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Florian Lüdtke
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