The Secretary-General singles out the 2009 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) study “From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Environment and Natural Resources” for demonstrating the recent links between land use, natural resources, frequency of conflict, and conflict relapse. The Secretary-General writes:
44. I wish to highlight two areas of increasing concern where greater efforts will be needed to deliver a more effective United Nations response. First, natural resources: a recent study by the United Nations Environment Programme concluded that 40 per cent of internal conflicts over a 60-year period were associated with land and natural resources, and that this link doubles the risk of conflict relapse in the first five years. Efforts have been made to draw early attention to these risks and to improve inter-agency coordination to address them, including by strengthening national capacity to prevent disputes over land and natural resources, as described in paragraph 31 above. Examples include programmes in Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and the Sudan, where coordination among several United Nations entities addressing land and natural resource management has demonstrated the importance of an inclusive approach. In order to further deliver on the ground I call on Member States and the United Nations system to make questions of natural resource allocation, ownership and access an integral part of peacebuilding strategies.
ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko
calls the inclusion of this language “an important step towards integrating environmental issues into broader UN peacebuilding efforts and providing critical top-level political support for this integration effort.”
UNEP’s Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch
(PCDMB) has been working to support a variety of UN bodies on integrating environment and natural resources into the peacebuilding process. Recent PCDMB efforts have been based in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, the DRC, and Sudan. New Security Beat
asked UNEP PCDMB’s Director of Policy and Planning David Jensen
to reflect on the new report via email:
I’m thrilled to finally see that after over 10 years of work by UNEP and a variety of other organizations and scholars, these issues have finally been recognized at the highest political level. There is no longer any doubt that the mismanagement of natural resources can be a key factor in contributing to violent conflict. At the same time, the very recognition that environmental issues and natural resources can contribute to violent conflict underscores their potential significance as pathways for cooperation, transformation, and the consolidation of peace in war-torn societies.
As Jensen writes in ECSP Report 13
, “If people cannot find clean water for drinking, wood for shelter and energy, or land for crops, what are the chances that peace will be successful and durable? Very slim.”
Last fall, Jensen predicted the UN was finally approaching a fundamental tipping point for inclusion of natural resource issues in the broader peacebuilding process
, and the Secretary-General appears to have proven him right.Photo Credit: “Secretary-General Addresses General Assembly,” courtesy of flickr user United Nations Photo.