On Friday, October 12, 2007, the Norwegian Nobel Committee chose the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore to receive the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize
for their respective efforts to document and raise awareness of the effects of climate change.Some observers
are perplexed by the Committee’s decision to award a peace prize for work on an environmental issue. The Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP), however, has long been cognizant of the myriad ways in which the environment is linked to peace and conflict. Climate change is only one of many environmental issues—including water
, and natural resource exploitation
—that can affect security.
This is the second time in three years that the Committee has awarded the Peace Prize to an environmentalist. 2004 winner Wangari Maathai and her Green Belt Movement were recognized for their efforts to develop sustainable livelihoods and empower women through tree planting and other environmental activities. In the latest issue of the ECSP Report, Maathai explains the close linkage between good governance, sustainability, and peace: “When we manage our resources sustainably and practice good governance we deliberately and consciously promote cultures of peace, which include the willingness to dialogue and make genuine efforts for healing and reconciliation…Whenever we fail to nurture these three themes, conflict becomes inevitable.”
ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko reflected on the Committee’s selection of Maathai—and its implications for the international community’s notions of peace and security—in several articles on leading environmental blog Gristmill. Dabelko’s words on Maathai’s selection still ring true: “Yet the criticism may miss the point by missing the widespread violence that goes on within states, violence that is not necessarily well-organized or by force of arms. The structural violence of poverty, corruption, and environmental degradation affects literally billions every day. The Nobel Prize rightly stretched the prior confines of the award and called attention to these ‘conflicts.’”