African Environmental and Human Security in the 21st Century

by Helen E. Purkitt


Environmental and human security issues are vital national security interests in African states because most citizens are engaged in daily struggles to survive. Chronic and worsening resource scarcities and degradations fuel these individual struggles, along with political conflicts among different groups vying to control and benefit from scarce resources. Thus, many observers agree on the importance of expanding the concept of national security in African states, but there is no consensus yet on the optimal approach for studying or improving environmental and human security problems.

While there are books on human and environmental security, few past works focus on Africa or address the interests and concerns of researchers and practitioners working in such diverse fields as development, security, or environmental science. Even though the military is one of the most influential institutions in African countries, no published work to date has addressed issues related to when, how, or if national and foreign militaries should be involved in promoting human and environmental security.

African Environmental and Human Security in the 21st Century fills this void by combining ten original studies that discuss important non-traditional security issues facing countries located in each region of Africa. This volume reflects a shared assumption that one must have case-specific knowledge, use multidisciplinary and multi-level conceptual frameworks, and have an appreciation of feasible and desirable public policies in order to understand and effectively address complex non-traditional security concerns.

The book’s organization reflects this shared commitment of the importance of case specific knowledge, interdisciplinary theory, and informed policy actions. Part One comprises three essays based on conference papers presented at the 49th International Studies Association meeting in March 2008, along with two additional case studies. Each chapter focuses on a particular type of human or security issue area to understand: worsening security conditions in Niger and Chad (Chapter 1), droughts, and other humanitarian emergencies in the Horn and East Africa (Chapter 2,), drivers of low-level in the Casamance region of Senegal (Chapter 3), and water pollution and xenophobic violence in South Africa (Chapter 4).

Part Two focuses on understanding emerging transcontinental by using interdisciplinary conceptual frameworks to monitor tropical diseases (Chapter 5), evaluate public policies designed to manage the consequences of climate change (Chapter 6), and understand how African militaries, with outside partners, use military environmental programs to improve the capacity of African militaries to cope with different security threats ranging from environmental degradation to jihadist terrorism (Chapter 7).

Part Three delivers insightful recommendations, remediation and conclusions. Chapter 8 provides a series of mini-case studies that illustrates the linkages among greed, grievances and natural resource conflicts in Africa. Chapter 9 surveys how peacekeeping operations address environmental problems but too often aggravate or even causes additional environmental and human security issues. Chapter 10 describes the Kavango-Zambezi (Kaza) Transfrontier Conservation Area, a five-nation proposal to tie the national parks and wildlife conservancies of southern Africa into a common conservation area. The final chapter ties the ten studies together and offers concluding thoughts about the future role of US military forces in Africa non-traditional security areas.

This is the first book to address a broad array of African environmental and human security issues. The book is intended to be used by beginning students, seasoned researchers, novice and experienced practitioners. The case studies expose the reader to past relevant research, while also identifying the main causes and consequences of different types of political conflicts fueled by human and environmental security problems. Each study also contains policy lessons, “best practices”, or recommended future actions. The originality and comprehensiveness of each chapter means that the volume is likely to appeal to a wide range of readers for many years.

Despite the diversity of the contributors’ backgrounds, many of the conclusions and recommendations use common themes about the complex causes of human and environmental conflicts; the need to adopt longer-term time frames to evaluate the effectiveness of policy actions; and an emphasis on the importance of outside actors providing modest amounts of targeted aid to help Africans manger immediate pressing problems as well. Several authors addressed the proper role for outside agencies, such as AFRICOM and USAID, and provide caveats similar to the thrust of Maxie McFarland’s cautionary concluding comments at the ISA panel; to wit, just because “the military is already doing a lot of nontraditional, human security type projects in Iraq and Afghanistan …and just because the Army [and other branches of the military] can do this type of activity, “doesn’t mean you want them to do it.”

African Environmental and Human Security in the 21st Century is an important book for African Studies, economic development, environmental and earth science, environmental security, ecotourism, history, human security, international relations, national security and military Science Collections.


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