Protective Pathways: Connecting Environmental and Human Security at Local and Landscape Level with NLP and Geospatial Analysis of a Novel Database of 1500 Project Evaluations

Document Type


Publication Date



Localized actionable evidence for addressing threats to the environment and human security lacks a comprehensive conceptual frame that incorporates challenges associated with active conflicts. Protective pathways linking previously disciplinarily-divided literatures on environmental security, human security and resilience in a coherent conceptual frame that identifies key relationships is used to analyze a novel, unstructured data set of Global Environment Fund (GEF) programmatic documents. Sub-national geospatial analysis of GEF documentation relating to projects in Africa finds 73% of districts with GEF land degradation projects were co-located with active conflict events. This study utilizes Natural Language Processing on a unique data set of 1500 GEF evaluations to identify text entities associated with conflict. Additional project case studies explore the sequence and relationships of environmental and human security concepts that lead to project success or failure. Differences between biodiversity and climate change projects are discussed but political crisis, poverty and disaster emerged as the most frequently extracted entities associated with conflict in environmental protection projects. Insecurity weakened institutions and fractured communities leading both directly and indirectly to conflict-related damage to environmental programming and desired outcomes. Simple causal explanations found to be inconsistent in previous largescale statistical associations also inadequately describe dynamics and relationships found in the extracted text entities or case summaries. Emergent protective pathways that emphasized poverty and conflict reduction facilitated by institutional strengthening and inclusion present promising possibilities. Future research with innovative machine learning and other techniques of working with unstructured data may provide additional evidence for implementing actions that address climate change and environmental degradation while strengthening resilience and human security. Resilient, participatory and polycentric governance is key to foster this process.

Publication Title




This document is currently not available here.