Research in 2020 found that 12 out of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change were also affected by conflict. Climate change, combined with existing social, political and economic dynamics, can exacerbate vulnerabilities, undermine peacebuilding efforts and lead to new conflicts. This is especially the case in fragile and conflict-affected countries, where low development levels, insecurity and weak governance limit coping potential. It is known that little international climate finance reaches fragile and conflict-affected countries to support their adaptation activities. However, it remains poorly understood whether the climate change adaptation projects financed through international climate finance that does reach these countries effectively contribute to reducing conflict risk.

In fragile and conflict-affected countries, climate change adaptation projects have the potential to influence conflict dynamics—and either increase or reduce conflict risks—depending on their design and implementation. The impact of conflict on project implementation (and vice versa) has been recognized by major donors of international climate finance as an issue that should receive attention. However, as yet, conflict risks do not seem to be systematically considered in the design and evaluation of adaptation projects, making it difficult to determine how the projects influence conflict dynamics.

This policy brief recommends a three-step approach to facilitating the consideration of conflict risks in the design of climate change adaptation projects. The steps are:

  • analysing climate–conflict dynamics at the project level;
  • assessing how the adaptation project influences the climate–conflict dynamics;
  • integrating the insights from the climate–conflict analysis into the adaptation project’s design.

These steps were derived from an analysis of conflict considerations in four projects from a single country, Sudan, and would benefit from further testing in other contexts. These same steps, with some modifications, can also be applied in the implementation and the monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) stages of climate change adaptation projects.