Addressing water-related conflict and disasters

The majority of the impacts of climate change, including natural disasters, are felt in the hydrological cycle - and their frequency and magnitude are expected to increase in coming years.

The vast majority of natural disasters (over 90 per cent) are water related, including drought, flood and tropical storms, with significant impact on societies and the economy. 

When managed properly, freshwater ecosystems such as wetlands can help to increase resilience and mitigate natural disasters and conflict through support to livelihoods and human well-being. Though rarely a direct cause of violent conflict or war, the central role of water to societies and economies means that extreme water scarcity, such as experienced during drought, can easily lend itself to contributing to conflicts if not managed properly.

What we do

UN Environment contributes to a wide range of environmental issues related to disasters and conflicts, including crisis preparedness and response, risk reduction, and recovery efforts.

UN Environment focuses on the impacts of natural disasters (primarily floods, droughts and glacial melt) on water quality, urban areas, and damages to natural and man-made infrastructure including freshwater habitats and ecosystem services, including many other areas. The Flood and Drought Management Tools project, implemented by the UNEP-DHI Partnership provides a methodology with online tools, accessible through the Flood and Drought Portal. These approaches are used to support planning from the transboundary basin to water utility level.

In North Darfur, Sudan, the Wadi El Ku Catchment Management Project has been improving livelihoods of conflict-affected populations in a region with a long history of severe food shortages and cyclical episodes of drought since 2013.