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STATEMENT: Risk of conflict increases amid growing food and water shortages (1)

Conflict risk rises amid growing food and water shortages and inflationary pressures, Institute for Economics reports.

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STATEMENT: Risk of conflict increases amid growing food and water shortages (1)

Conflict risk rises amid growing food and water shortages and inflationary pressures, Institute for Economics reports

LONDON, Nov. 1, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Today marks the annual launch of the Ecological Threats Report, produced by the Institute for Economics

Key results:

The Ecological Threats Report (ETR) analyzes ecological threats globally and assesses countries and subnational areas most at risk of conflict, civil unrest and displacement caused by ecological degradation and climate-related events. The report covers 221 independent countries and territories divided into 3,594 subnational areas.

The main conclusion of the ETR is that without concerted action, current levels of ecological degradation will worsen, intensifying existing conflicts and becoming a catalyst for new conflicts, resulting in an increase in forced migration.

The number of countries suffering from serious ecological threats and low social resilience has increased from 3 to 30 in the last year. These hotspot countries are home to 1.1 billion people, an increase of 332 million(1). Recent pressures on global food prices have placed additional demands on already food-insecure countries.

Hotspot countries

Three new countries have emerged as "hotspots." These are Niger, Ethiopia and Myanmar, all of which have entered a damaging cycle of increasing ecological threats, declining social resilience and escalating conflict. Each of them has faced famine and violence in the past 12 months: the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia, the recent military coup in Niger, and violence in Myanmar following its coup in 2021.

Ecological degradation and conflict are cyclical, so resource degradation leads to conflict, while conflict leads to resource degradation. Ecological degradation has the greatest impact on conflict in regions such as the Sahel, which face significant deficiencies in governance, the rule of law, high levels of poverty and short-term climate variations.

Conflicts often spread from one country to another, affecting the region and beyond(2). There are currently more than 108 million displaced people, 24% more than in 2020. Estimates show that 30% of all displacements travel more than 500 kilometers beyond their country of origin, and a significant percentage of entries illegal shipments to Europe come from ecologically threatened countries and countries ravaged by conflict(6). A significant percentage of illegal entries into Europe, particularly 29% from Syria and 9% from Afghanistan, come from conflict countries.

Based on current trends, and without substantial efforts to reverse them, IEP estimates show that by 2050, 2.8 billion people will reside in countries facing serious ecological threats, up from 1.8 billion in 2023.

Conflict, food and water stress

Food insecurity is related to water stress. The ETR estimates that a 25% increase in food insecurity increases the risk of conflict by 36%; Similarly, a 25% increase in water risk increases the probability of conflict by 18%. Areas with a history of conflict and weak institutions are the most vulnerable.

Global food prices have increased by 33% since 2016, putting greater pressure on the most vulnerable. Currently, 42 countries face severe food insecurity and almost four billion people live in highly or severely food insecure areas. Most of these countries are located in sub-Saharan Africa.

Currently two billion people live in countries without access to drinking water. By 2040, the MENA region will mirror the water stress of sub-Saharan Africa. Eight of the 12 countries in Russia and Eurasia currently face significant water challenges, exacerbated by low rainfall and their topology.

These trends are expected to worsen. Global warming is likely to exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century, making it more difficult to stay below 2°C. This is likely to exacerbate ecological degradation and underlying drivers of conflict(3).

Natural disasters, population and conflicts

Climate change amplifies risks such as droughts, floods, cyclones and storms. Mortality rates are seven times higher in countries with low levels of resilience and peace than high ones. Thus, in 2022 the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund allocated 35% of its budget to the fight against natural disasters, compared to 17% a decade ago.

Rising population pressures intensify ecological risks, putting pressure on public resources and societal resilience, especially in already vulnerable regions. By 2050, the population of sub-Saharan Africa is projected to increase to 2.2 billion people, an increase of more than 60%, dramatically increasing pressure on existing food and water supplies. By 2050, the number of young people under 15 years of age in the region will represent more than the entire population of Europe, highlighting the dynamic changes in the distribution of the world's population.

Steve Killelea, Founder and CEO of IEP said:

"As we approach COP 28, the Ecological Threats Report provides a timely reminder of the need for leaders to act, invest and build resilience for the future. The number of countries with serious ecological threats that lack the resilience social security needed to address these challenges continues to increase and climate change will only exacerbate these threats.

Countries with high levels of Positive Peace(4) have the social resilience to resolve these challenges. In a world facing increased ecological degradation, conflict and forced migration, world leaders must invest in programs that build capabilities that build positive resilience and drive economic advancement.”

Megacities: increasing pollution and population

The number of megacities(5) is increasing and is projected to increase from 33 to 50 by 2050. More than 267 million people currently live in the world's least peaceful megacities. These cities will experience rapid growth over the next 30 years, but lack the financial resources to manage their expansion, resulting in increases in crime, poverty, traffic congestion and pollution.

In Africa, both Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have multiple high-growth cities, with low per capita incomes. Of the 50 projected megacities, 60% are located in countries that are in the bottom half of the Global Peace Index.

More than 60% of refugees and 80% of internally displaced people move to cities. By 2050, 70% of the world's population will live in cities and most of the growth will occur in countries with low per capita income and high levels of violence. Examples include Kinshasa, Lagos, Dhaka and Karachi.

Conflicts and the green economy

Countries that rely heavily on fossil fuels will struggle without assistance during the next green transition. For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Iraq, Angola and Timor Leste derive more than 25% of their GDP from fossil fuels. Faced with significant ecological challenges and low social resilience, these countries may face a drop in GDP of up to 60% between 2030 and 2040.

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Notes to editors

(1)The hotspot countries of 2023 are:

(2) Global Peace Index 2023

(3) IPCC, 2023: Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, H. Lee and J. Romero (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, p71

(4) Positive Peace is defined as the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. Fountain

(5) Cities with a population of more than 10 million

(6)Ecological Threat Report 2021

Acerca del Ecological Threat Report (ETR)

This is the fourth edition of the ETR covering 228 independent states and territories. The ETR is unique because it takes a multifaceted machine learning approach to combine resilience measures with the most comprehensive ecological data available to shed light on countries least likely to face extreme ecological crises, now and in the future.


The ETR includes the latest and most respected scientific research on population growth, water scarcity, food insecurity, droughts, floods, cyclones and temperature rise. Additionally, the report uses the IEP Positive Peace framework to identify areas where resilience is unlikely to be strong enough to adapt or cope with these future crises. The report is based on a wide variety of data sources, including the World Bank, the World Resources Institute, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Center of Internal Displacement Monitoring, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Organization for Migration and the IEP.

About the Institute for Economics

IEP is an international, independent think tank dedicated to changing the world's focus on peace as a positive, achievable and tangible measure of human well-being and progress. It has offices in Sydney, Brussels, New York, The Hague, Mexico City and Harare.

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