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Climate Change and Building a Democratic Society



Oladosu Adenike

Democracy in its purest form is a system of government where the citizens of a state exercise power to rule the state, either directly or through electing representatives. A democracy, at least in theory, is the government on behalf of all the people, according to their “will”.  Since the creation (or evolution) of human beings, she has glorified “coping mechanisms" of survival and strength, part of it is a flexible system of governance. In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly resolved to observe 15th September as International Day of Democracy with the purpose of promoting and upholding the principles of democracy and invited all member states and organizations to celebrate its importanceThe day was founded on the 20th anniversary of the first International Conference of the new and restored democracies, which promoted global democracy. Till this day, the International Day of Democracy is utilized in promoting the core principles of democracy which includes; individual autonomy (freedom) and equality for all.


Climate Change is one of the existential crises of the twenty first (21st) century. This has an impact on democratic governance through its effects on food security, conflicts, water scarcity, migration and natural disasters. Hence, there are strong links between action to address climate and environmental crises and action to promote democracy. The democratic culture is entirely built on the people. In places like Africa, 80% of her citizenry live in rural areas, hence depend on the environment for their survival. One of the dire consequences of climate change is the depletion of scarce resources. Consequently, the groups who are most severely affected by the resources scarcity caused by climate change and environmental degradation are the same groups that commonly made up the bulk of the "democratic population”the poorest, slum residents, subsistence farmers, rural women, minorities and indigenous people. Over the years, the increasing impacts of climate change have led to the deadly clashes between farmers and herdsmen leading to increased unrest, destruction of lives and properties. In such scenarios, the democratic cultures and institutions keep weakening.

Worst of all, the debilitating effects of climate change is worsening insecurity occasioned by factors likefarmer/herdsmen clashes, cattle rustlingkidnapping and other social vices. To this effect, Nigeria has recorded tens of thousands of deaths due to the dangerous effects of climate change. Interestingly, section 14(2) (b) of the Nigerian Constitution (as amended) stated, “the security and welfare of the people should be the primary purpose of government and the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this constitution”.

Unfortunately democratically elected governors in the seven states of the North Western part of Nigeria have voiced their concerns on the possibility of election not being held in their districts. All of these are caused by the worsening impacts of climate change in the region. This will weaken the democratic culture in 35% of Nigeria’s population.

Hitherto, it is worthy to note that it is only in Sub Saharan Africa that climate change is leading to conflicts; the cumulative (additional) effects on food supply chains on the populace can’t be over-emphasized. Nigeria has maintained the infamous title of “World Poverty Capital” according to the World Bank since 2016. The World Bank data has shown that four in every ten Nigerians (40%) live below the poverty line of $1.9 per day – approximately 70 million people living in extreme poverty – highest in Africa. Nigeria’s democratic system is unduly reeling from the effects of vote-buying and ballot-box snatching. Theseffects are occurring in rural areas where there is a high rate of poverty and depravity. Recent studies conducted have opined on the dangerous effects of climate change on small farm systems which includes election rigging and other electoral malpractices.


Since the French revolution and renewed republicanism, modern forms of democracy have largely evolved from its Greek simplitic formation. Democracy over the years has evolved from mainly male white voters to a system cherished by half of the world’s population. For democracy to survive, it most includes the voices of the environment. Democracy is failing because we are not acting on what defines us. Modern democracies mustn’t be about the people only. In many towns and villages in Sahara Africa, the basic tenets of an ideal democracy system – election – can’t be conducted. This is mainly due to the contributing effects of climate change on their socio-economic and political life.

To this effect the I LED CLIMATE ACTION INITIATIVE founded by myself has started fighting for the space of climate action in a democratic system. We fully participated in African Union Conference 2021 on “silencing the guns: a call for climate action”. We have visited towns, cities and villages in Northern Nigeria to support women in Agriculture towards fighting against effects of climate change on the food system. This have brought about communal harmony and get-togetherness among different tribes and peoples. Our message in this year’s celebration is“sustaining democracy, fighting against climate action”.

Next year is Nigeria’s seventh (7th) unbroken electionery cycle since 1999. We at I LED CLIMATE ACTION INITIATIVE are supporting initiatives to empower the growth of democracy through people oriented projects and Climate actions.


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