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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

The Climatic Disruption
Systems thinking to interpret migration and conflict under climatic constraints: the case study of Syria and its applicability to the Colombian context

Current policy-making understands human and ecological systems as independent, leading to the
misconception that they interact, but can be managed separately. This often leads to policy
overlooking the effects that the environment has on human structures, and vice versa, on a
regular basis. If the system is placed under environmental stress, this disconnection may cause
the system to fail, which can manifest in migration and conflict.

Under a climate-change scenario, it becomes increasingly important to consider social and
environmental structures as one single system, that must be managed as a unit. Also, increasing
the resilience of socio-ecological systems becomes a priority to prevent climatic disruptions to
cause the system to collapse.

This dissertation aims to learn from using systems thinking to interpret the Syrian crisis, following
the 2006-2011 drought, and extract insights from using the same methodology in different
contexts. This is done through the construction of two diagrams that help visualize socioecological
system in a more accessible way, offering policy-makers an instrument to understand
and manage socio-ecological systems more effectively.

Finally, it discusses how these lessons can be helpful for the post-conflict process in Colombia,
which shares many structural flaws with pre-conflict Syria, and explores how the methodology
can be useful to identify and address these flaws for sustainable peace-building.
Keywords: climate change, conflict, migration, systems thinking


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.