While the causes of the chronic humanitarian challenges that plague Africa are partly socio-economic, they are exacerbated by climate change and environmental degradation. Responding to them requires the continent to leverage on the global response to climate change. Recent high-level regional and global policy positions adopted by United Nations (UN) member states, including in the Sahel, which privilege an integrated approach – an approach that views dealing with climate change and socio-economic development as mutually dependent – provide the continent with a roadmap for the future.

At the global level, the Paris Climate Agreement, signed in December 2015, the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals all support an integrated approach. This integrated view is also replicated at the regional level. At the sixth Africa Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) special session held in Cairo, under the theme ‘Agenda 2030 and Paris Agreement: From policy to implementation in Africa’, focus was given to exploring the ways in which the continent can leverage the environment for sustainable development.

Environment as a solution provider to the humanitarian crises

At the strategic level, the aim is to anchor humanitarian initiatives in regional climate policy and strategic positions and their implementation mechanisms at national and regional level. This is to ensure the adequate mobilisation of resources – technical, technological, financial, etc., as well as political support – while the operational level will have to do with ground actions.

Strategic Level Interventions

It is necessary for the continent to mobilise the humanitarian sector to implement climate policy positions. There is a need to break siloes between humanitarian policy planning and the domestication of the high-level climate policy positions. To achieve this, the participation of climate and humanitarian sector actors from government, development partners and UN agencies need to be mobilised to participate in the domestication of environmental policies at national and regional level that can potentially reverse ecosystems degradation.

To practically achieve this, framework continental initiatives on implementing/domesticating these high-level policy positions, like the UN Environments Ecosystemsbased Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA) should be used to mobilise humanitarian sector stakeholders to participate in this inclusive process.