Environment and security - challenges for armed forces missions in flooded cities


  • Petter Wulff
  • Birgitta Liljedahl
  • Malin Mobjörk
  • Maria Elena Wulff

Publish date: 2010-06-24

Report number: FOI-R--2913--SE

Pages: 57

Written in: Swedish


  • environmental security
  • environment and security
  • climate change
  • international missions


Title:Environment and Security - Challenges for a Swedish Armed Forces mission to a flooded urban area The rapid transformation, having to do with climate change and urban population increase, not least in Africa, has raised new challenges to Swedish Armed Forces´ missions abroad. Could missions become more frequent in the future? Do the Armed Forces have the capabilities required for intervention in slumlike conditions? And can environmental responsibility be assured in such missions? Such questions have been raised again after the Haitian earthquake disaster in early 2010. To shed light on the questions above, a study has been carried our as part of the FoT project Environment and Security (Miljö och Säkerhet). Its objective is to support decision-making in the Armed Forces about where to go on missions and what to bring when going. A survey of recent literature about environment and security has been undertaken. It contains material from various UN bodies and think tanks. The survey is an update of an earlier work (FOI-R--2660--SE, 2008). Apart from climate change there is another long term trend in the form of a steadily growing urban population. In the world at large there are now more people living in urban areas than in the countryside. For Africa this shift has not yet occurred, but the continent has a rapidly growing urban population. A large proportion of the urban residents live in slums. If you add flooding to normal city slum conditions, it will mean a number of challenges: limited points of orientation regarding infra structure and social groups, roads with limited accessibility and load-carrying capacity, lacking freshwater resources, detrimental sanitary conditions, multi-ethnicity with language barriers and a dominant proportion of young unemployed men. It is a setting where criminality and conflicts between population groups can be expected even without flooding conditions. The problems will tend to become worse with flooding, which in turn may prompt a call for a peace supporting/enforcing military mission. For the Swedish Armed Forces to successfully respond to such a call, a number of function need to be uppgraded. From an environment securing perspective the situation studied implies, for example, that activities possibly affecting local access to drinking water must be carried out in a safe way. Environmental measures to control the spread of water-born deceases may be of importance. Action has to be taken quickly, yet avoiding mistakes that may turn out to have negative long term consequences. The report also discusses missions with more of steady state character. Environmental problems are found to be rather different in such a context, requiring in part other solutions. To face the challenges portrayed, we recommend the Armed Forces to make an assessment of capabilities required in situations with a destabilized environment.