As climate change intensifies in many parts of the world, more and more policymakers are concerned with its effects on human security and violence. From Lake Chad to the Philippines, including Afghanistan and Syria, some violent extremist (VE) groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State exploit crises and conflicts resulting from environmental stress to recruit more followers, expand their influence and even gain territorial control. In such cases, climate change may be described as a “risk multiplier” that exacerbates a number of conflict drivers.
Against this backdrop, this case study looks at the relationship between climate change and violent extremism in North Africa, and more specifically the Maghreb countries Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, which are all affected by climate change and violent extremism. There are three justifications for this thematic and geographical focus. Firstly, these countries are affected by climate change in multiple ways: water scarcity, temperature variations and desertification are only a few examples of the numerous cross border impacts of climate change in this region. Secondly, these three countries have been and remain affected by the activity of violent extremist groups such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Islamic State organisation (IS) and their respective affiliated groups. Algeria endured a civil war from 1991 to 2002 in which Islamist groups opposed the government, while Morocco and Tunisia have been the targets of multiple terrorist attacks by jihadist individuals and organisations. Thirdly, the connection between climate change and violent extremism has received much less attention in the literature than other climate-related security risks.