In December 2021, Security Council failed to adopt the draft resolution to integrate the climate security-related threat into the United Nations conflict-prevention strategies. The resolution was aimed to help the forum facing the risk of conflict that will escalate because of social issues affected by climate change such as, drought, flood, soil degradation, and sea level rising that create social-security problems such as water and food scarcity and large-scale people displacement (United Nations, December 2021).
Through that resolution, it is expected that the concern of climate change and social-security issues that are affected by it would start to be seen as intersectional and contributing to conflict and affecting the security itself. As can be observed in the displacement and refugees issue in South Sudan that pushed 500.000 Dinka ethnic people from their homes and escalated the ethnic conflict between Dinka and Nuer. Other phenomena such as sea level rising also affect island state and their neighbor state which will get affected by refugees that try to get into their country.
Even though the climate-related threat is classified as a multiplier factor, its impact on the social security issue is real and has the potential to escalate the conflict that risks the security of thousands of citizens. Nevertheless, by the rejection of those draft resolutions from India and Russia, and abstain from China, Security Council then must reject the resolution because of the votes of a permanent member. India, as the member that rejects the draft, bases its rejection on the functionality of the Security Council which is to deescalate the conflict and discuss the climate impact is not a proper forum because there is another forum that has focused on that issue already (Security Council Report, 2021). But, is it necessary to discuss climate change and its impact on Security Council? Is it relevant for climate issues to be discussed in a security forum?
Why should it be UNSC, as a security Forum, to discussed it?
As a forum and institution in the UN that has been mandated to keep the security and peace, the advocacy of climate adaptation policy the have several urgencies to be integrated into UNSC talks. First, quoting from the UNSC mandate in chapter IV, “The Security Council may investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute, in order to determine whether the continuance of the dispute or situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security (United Nations, n.d.).” Even though that mandate is written in the ‘Pacific Settlement of Disputes’ section, those article is not referring to clauses that limit the situation contribute to the conflict on human activities directly, such as the impact of climate change. Therefore, the impact of climate change should be addressed by the Security Council forum to prevent disputes from escalating into a real conflict that threatened the social-security issue.
Second, regarding the hierarchical decision-making in United Nations, Security Council has the authority to enforce more binding and interventionist resolutions than other forums such as General Assembly that the socio-economy issues with more loose output. Connecting the dots, the conditions which have been faced by climate change issue in international meetings is slower than what should be expected in creating an assertive and ambitious response, especially when the issues are in intersection with other issues such as conflict escalation. Regarding this situation, the Security council, as the dominant institution that establishes the dominant discourse on international security, has a central role in directing the climate change urgency in international society, since the security discourse is always paramount in international relations.
UNSC as a dominant discourse-maker in security studies
It can not be denied that United Nations is an organization characterized by monolithic production of power in the implementation of its agenda, with human rights and human security as the dominant narrative in its every decision-making process (Shepherd, 2008, p. 392). This character could be seen through the UN Charter in 1945, particular in article 24.1, “Members confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and agree that in carrying out its duties under this responsibility the Security Council acts on their behalf” (UN 1945, Article 24.1). Those article referring Security Council as the highest authority institutionally and legislative in the UN through its resolutions. And in the name of security, Security Council has extensive authority in drawing the objective of every resolution and mission. Even though it needs to be questioned on what purposes those objectives are being directed.
The power that Security Council had in concepting how security will be achieved in international relations could be reflected to what Buzan (1998) wrote as the process of securitization. Regarding Buzan, the creation of the security concept is the key to legitimizing the use of force, mobilizing international society, and using the special means to intervene in other states’ business in the name of handling existential threats which threaten the existence of states and their sovereignty (Buzzan, 1998). To put it simply, labeling a situation as security will frame that situation as emergency and apolitical. As the implication, issue that had been labeled as a security threat will get punctuation and urgency to exterminate the threat at the institution level, such as the different perspectives of the member which will get in the way of its agenda realization. In this process of securitization, the problem of climate change creates a great leap in its progress to meet its drives the securitization process.
Nevertheless, the discourse-making of security above is still limited to traditional security conception which refers to the military aspect of security. This limitation can be seen through the articulation of security and its threat by permanent members of the Security Council. India, Russia, and China reject the discussion of the draft resolution because they are afraid that international society will intervene their sovereignty, as what could have happened in Chapter VII (Security Council Report, 2021). In addition, the uncertainty of scientific research about climate and the connection with security means also become another narrative from the three countries to reject the draft.
The traditional security approach that still dominates shows the failure Security Council, as a security forum for states, to recognize the issue to create a safe environment for its people. All this is due to, first, traditional security studies, on the basic level, are not trying to solve the root of the disputes and war, however, it only focuses on how to avoid the damage that could be achieved by parties involved in the disputes (Walt, 1991, p. 212). Second, the traditional security studies too focused on keeping the concept of the states and its existence, so that it becomes oblivious about the people within the states as the constituent of the state also gives the legitimacy to the state’s sovereignty (Waltz, 1991, p. 213). Those two characteristics of traditional security studies show how security is too limited in the military aspect and lost its ability and orientation to keep the people feel safe.
Stepping out of the old conception
It can not be denied that the impact of climate change is getting worst every day, even if it is affected the most in several conflicts and disputes in international relations. The urgency for the Security Council to discuss the impact of climate change on conflict escalation is the embodiment of awareness of the need for safety than the conception of security itself.
As a disclaimer, of course, there is risk and compromise in states’ sovereignty when we try to securitize the climate issue in a security forum. Last time, when international society try to securitize human right issue, US used those narratives to disarm and intervene in the oil field of Iran in 2002. This threat is evident and inevitable because security is the paramount issue in international relations, and every issue that is labeled as a threat of it will expand the authority of states’ to get rid of it, even if it violates others’ sovereignty.
The only way for security studies to avoid the worsening failure in addressing the issue of security that have been affected by climate issue is to step out of the traditional conception of security, and its rigidity in the game of tough-man through its war-game strategies, while failed to see the essence of the states and the security that we try to create and establish, is the safety of people within the states.