SD.20.001 – From Climate Change to Conflict: Mitigation through Insurance?

Route: Sustainable development goals for inclusive global development

Cluster question: 055 How do we protect ourselves against natural disasters (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and floods)?

An increasing number of studies confirm a positive causal relationship between climate change and conflict, suggesting this relationship is most pronounced in the Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa. The evidence, however, is contested, especially because mechanisms are understudied. One often suggested mechanism is that households affected by climate-induced weather shocks lack sufficient buffer to cope with shocks, and have to resort to migration, theft, and land and water seizure, which in turn could lead to social unrest and conflict.

To combat this, policymakers often promote insurance against weather shocks. While there is evidence that formal insurance may provide relief against direct financial consequences of weather shocks, a careful analysis of the drivers of conflict and cooperation suggests this is not the full picture. First, evidence shows that in periods of shocks rural households are less likely to engage in conflict because they rely on cooperation with rival groups for access to scarce resources. Second, the ex ante effect of insurance (incentivizing households to choose a higher productivity path) may put pressure on productive natural resources, an often-cited source of conflict over natural resources.

In this study we therefore ask why and to what extent climate-induced weather shocks and insurance impact conflict? Can we design and test interventions that can be jointly implemented with insurance to mitigate potential conflict-intensifying effects of insurance?

We will do so by studying a well-established insurance product that is offered to pastoralists in Ethiopia and Kenya and is being considered for scale up across the Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa: the index-based livestock insurance (IBLI). We will combine a qualitative contextual analysis to identify an appropriate conflict-mitigating intervention which (in an experiment) will be jointly introduced with insurance before impacts on conflict and cooperation are measured.


climate change, Conflict, Cooperation, Institutions, insurance, Mixed methods

Other organisations

Cornell University, Environment and Climate Research Centre, Georgia State University, International Committee for the Red Cross, International Livestock Research Institute, University of Amsterdam (UvA), Wageningen Universities and Research (WUR), World Bank


Organisation Utrecht University (UU)
Name Dr. K. (Karlijn) Morsink