The second day of the Global Environmental Change and Human Security conference
in Oslo illustrated the evolution of the environment, conflict, and security debate. The key discussion came from a panel entitled “Environmental Change, Conflicts, and Vulnerability in War-Torn Societies” that featured Ken Conca of the University of Maryland; David Jensen
of the UN Environment Programme
(UNEP); and Arve Ofstad of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation
In this short video, Geoff Dabelko, director of the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program and chair of the panel, notes that in the last 10 years, researchers and practitioners have moved from a nearly exclusive focus on the connections between environmental scarcity or abundance and conflict to a wider set of questions about environment’s roles all along the conflict continuum—including prevention, active conflict, conflict termination, and post-conflict peacebuilding and reconstruction. This wider agenda includes questions of cooperation and peacebuilding around environmental interdependence. Jensen’s UNEP post-conflict office directly engages these multiple environment-conflict connections, and he shared both practical lessons learned and concrete UN points of entry.
Dabelko also comments that human security, enunciated most prominently in the 1994 UNDP Human Development Report, has raised the profile of a wider set of vulnerabilities than those coming directly from the end of a gun. This more inclusive agenda brings livelihoods, human rights, and social and cultural values more squarely into the analysis of insecurity.