A new policy brief by Bodhi Global Analysis presents the key findings and policy implications of research carried out in May – June 2023 on the gendered dimensions of the climate-conflict nexus, and the effect of climate-induced conflict on gender roles in cross-border conflict systems in arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) in the Horn of Africa.

There is a growing understanding that the pathways linking climate change and inter-communal conflict are gendered, with gender norms and roles intersecting with environmental, social, political, and economic factors to determine individuals’ and communities’ engagement in violent conflict. However, with few exceptions, the vast majority of research on gender in the climate-conflict nexus remains narrowly focused on the impacts on women and girls, framing them as victims rather than agents of change. There is also a limited understanding of how the compounded impacts of climate and conflict themselves affect gender norms, and what the implications are for climate adaptation and peacebuilding interventions.

The research focused on two climate-affected cross-border conflict systems in the Horn of Africa: the Mandera Triangle (where Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia converge) and the southwest Ethiopia-northwest Kenya border area.

Key findings include:

  • Climate change can contribute to natural resource conflict in cross-border ASALs through four indirect causal pathways, each with a distinct set of intervening variables.
  • Women are not just passive victims of conflict, but actively engage in conflict – albeit differently from men.
  • Women play a limited role in decision-making processes around resource-based conflict resolution and natural resource management.
  • The impacts of climate change are contributing to changing gender roles in communities in both conflict systems, driving women to take on responsibilities traditionally associated with men.
  • A change in gender roles in climate and conflict-affected communities presents both a challenge and an opportunity, which multi-actor interventions could leverage for better outcomes across the gender-climate-security nexus.