Send in the Scientists, Says Finnish MPApril 1, 2010 By Sean PeoplesPekka Haavisto, a Member of the Finnish Parliament, thinks an objective scientific investigation of rumored toxic waste in Somalia would be both doable and politically useful. Haavisto, the former Finnish minister of environment, visited the Woodrow Wilson Center last week and spoke with the Environmental Change and Security Program’s director Geoff Dabelko.
Dabelko wrote about Haavisto’s ideas for a Somalia environmental assessment after a conversation they had late last year in Helsinki:
Haavisto is an enthusiastic advocate for environmental missions that may improve the desperate conditions resulting from violent conflicts. “We should be talking with all the factions,” he told me, to investigate the toxic waste charges. Such a thorough and objective assessment could provide a rare and potentially valuable avenue for addressing underlying suspicions and grievances some Somalis hold against those whom they claim dump waste off shore and overfish their waters.It’s no surprise Haavisto focuses on using scientific environmental assessments in conflict settings. He is the former chairman of the UN Environment Programme’s Post-Conflict Assessment Unit (PCAU)—now called the Disasters and Conflicts Programme—the Geneva-based UNEP unit that assesses environmental threats, remediates hot spots, builds capacity, and supports peacebuilding around environmental issues in post-conflict settings. Haavisto presented UNEP’s work at the Wilson Center in a 2004 presentation. His colleagues, including UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, have subsequently launched more recent UNEP contributions at the Wilson Center. ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko serves on UNEP’s Expert Advisory Group on Environment, Conflict, and Peacebuilding.