“We need the scenario type of thinking that the security community is so skilled at doing…the integrated thinking that we in the environmental movement need to learn,” said Veening. He pointed out not everyone may think the security sector is the right source for insight on environmental problems, but he suggested listening to the security community’s insights before judging their utility. Veening focused on the larger context of climate change and security and the 2009 climate negotiations in Copenhagen at this standing-room only session, which included Thai, Ecuadorian, and Bangladeshi military officers.
As climate change and security analysts focus on the potential for increased conflict during periods of change in rainfall and land productivity, Jeff McNeely, chief scientist for IUCN and a specialist on environmental impacts during times of conflict, urged consideration of historical cases such as the Anasazi in the American Southwest. Shifting to war’s impact on the environment, McNeely highlighted the loss of fishing livelihoods around Lake Edward. Tilapia populations in the lake collapsed following the slaughter of Central African hippopotamus; the numerous military forces in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo were primary hippo poachers. McNeely called for the creation of transboundary peace parks as a means to build confidence in a wide variety of environmentally rich border areas.
Sherri Goodman, general counsel at the Washington-based CNA Corporation, asserted that “many militaries actually have strong environmental roots.” For instance, she noted, the U.S. military is the third-largest land holder in the United States, and that land is host to the greatest concentration of species in the United States. She argued for militaries to engage one another—and their respective environmental ministries—constructively on these issues. When she was the deputy under secretary of defense for environmental security in both Clinton administrations, Goodman used the environment as an engagement tool with the regional U.S. combatant commands. This engagement can be important for environmental values and understanding but can also develop preventive capacity in the security sector. Goodman recommended IUCN create a task force with NATO that would develop an environmental security tool to improve long-range planning.
Julia Marton-Lefevre, director-general of IUCN, said she took her previous job as rector of University of Peace in Costa Rica because she was “absolutely convinced there is a link between environment and security.” Now in her position as head of IUCN she does “see a role for IUCN” in environment and security. She asked rhetorically, “What can IUCN do in the area of peace and security and environmental security?” IUCN’s members could be part of the machinery to provide early warning of environment and conflict links on the ground. She also said that IUCN is starting to work with militaries in a number of settings. On the multilateral level, IUCN’s observer status at the United Nations presents a key opportunity to bring the messages on environmental security to a variety of forums in the UN system.
Tommy Garnett, director of Environmental Foundation for Africa, said that leaders in West Africa have just started to grapple with climate change in the last few years. Previously, efforts were focused on traditional issues of bad governance, food insecurity, rising incidence of disease, and extreme poverty. Just as parties in West Africa were starting to make progress on the links between these issues and conflict, climate change came into the discussion, and it is causing a lot of confusion, both in the field and analytically. Governments have very little time to deal with climate change, given the pressing nature of conflict and post-conflict challenges. “More attention needs to be given to educating decision-makers in the region on climate change and how it is going to impact on peace and security,” said Garnett.
Garnett called for the international community to switch focus from conflict in “poor countries” to examining conflict in “resource-rich countries with a lot of poor people.” The international community has not helped prevent conflict in places where natural resources were part of the conflict. Garnett recommended investing in prevention rather than pouring so much more money into post-conflict activities.
Susanne Michaelis, head of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Program, was asked what NATO is currently doing in environmental security. She said that environmental protection is part of all NATO operations, and soldiers on the ground have environmental expertise. “But I think NATO must do much, much more,” she added. “It is not enough just to make military operations more environmentally friendly.” Partnership for Peace trust funds and the NATO Science for Peace Program continue to fund concrete projects in vulnerable regions.
Major Piet Wit of the Dutch army was just back from Afghanistan and said flatly that it is critical to go beyond the strategy of winning hearts and minds in post-conflict settings. The hearts-and-minds strategy is too narrow, he said; we need strategies for long-term security. He maintained that there is no security without food security, and achieving it has water, land, economic, and institutional dimensions.
Photos: Wouter Veening and Tommy Garnett. Courtesy of Geoff Dabelko.