United Nations Environment Programme
environment for development Search 
News Centre
 Home News Centre
 Media Contacts
 Press Releases
 In Focus
 RSS / Podcasts

 Printable Version

New Book Examines how Natural Resources can Spark Conflict, but also Create Peace

Washington, DC and Geneva 6 November 2012 - A flagship book that documents and analyzes the devastating impact of war on the environment in 23 conflict-affected countries and territories across the globe was released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), the University of Tokyo, and McGill University following 5 years of unprecedented field research.

Assessing and Restoring Natural Resources in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding highlights how post-conflict reconstruction efforts based on the sustainable use of natural resources and the environment can foster lasting economic and social growth in war-torn nations. In fact, re-establishing access to land and water are often the two most important priorities at the rural level.

This set of case studies, edited by David Jensen, a member of UNEP's Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch and Steve Lonergan, professor emeritus at the University of Victoria, is the result of an extensive collaboration between 35 specialists from the United Nations, government ministries, non-governmental organizations, academia and the military. The research spanned the globe, including case studies from Iraq, Sierra Leone, Haiti and Afghanistan relating to a wide range of topics such as the assessment of direct and indirect environmental impacts of war, the restoration of key natural resources, the impacts of road infrastructure on land rights, the remediation of polluted sites, and the risks of depleted uranium contamination.

Today, on the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reemphasized the need for "a greater international focus on the role of natural resource management in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding." He also highlighted that "the resource curse must no longer be allowed to undermine the security of fragile and conflict-affected states and the foundations of sustainable development."

"Addressing the environmental dimensions of conflicts and disasters is one of UNEP's seven priority areas," said Jensen. "As natural resources become increasingly scarce, and the impacts of climate change intensify, fragile states will need additional support. The lessons contained in this book will be essential in helping to chart our future direction and to improve our capacity for rapid response."

A shift toward increased attention to natural resources and the environment during post-conflict recovery began when former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked in 1999 for a comprehensive assessment of the effects of the Kosovo conflict on the environment and human settlements. The report, The Kosovo Conflict: Consequences for the Environment and Human Settlement, was the first of its kind by UNEP to assess the environmental damage and risks for human health, livelihoods, and security.

"Hot spots - areas with acute chemical and other contamination - pose grave and unique threats to human health and the environment," said ELI President John C. Cruden. "Although it is imperative that the hot spots be cleaned up, the post-conflict clean-up process can also invigorate local economies, advance the innovation of technologies, build cooperative relationships, and contribute toward capacity building. This is one of the main lessons highlighted in this groundbreaking publication, part of an entire program of research and assistance that ELI is proud to be working on."

"The post-conflict assessment process provides an invaluable opportunity to understand the role of natural resources after a conflict has ended and to plan accordingly," said Lonergan. "The book examines many successes in remediating specific environmental hot spots. It also demonstrates the importance of restoring the resource base upon which millions of livelihoods depend in order to prevent continued instability, food insecurity and potential conflict."

The book - funded by the Government of Finland, USAID, the European Union, the Center for Global Partnership of the Japan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Compton Foundation - focuses on 4 themes: (1) Post-Conflict Environmental Assessments; (2) Remediation of Environmental Hot Spots; (3) Restoration of Natural Resources and Ecosystems; and (4) Environmental Dimensions of Infrastructure and Reconstruction.

It is part of a series of 6 books published by Earthscan / Taylor and Francis that addresses: high-value natural resources; assessment and restoration of natural resources; water; land; resources for livelihoods; and resource governance.

Notes to Editors:

The Environmental Law InstituteŽ (www.eli.org) is an independent, non-profit research and educational organization based in Washington, DC. For further information, please contact Brett Kitchen at +1-202-939-3833 or pressrequest@eli.org.

The United Nations Environment Programme (www.unep.org) is the voice for the environment in the United Nations system, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. For media enquiries, please contact the UNEP Newsdesk in Nairobi, Kenya, at +254 20 762 5022 or unepnewsdesk@unep.org.

To purchase a copy of the book, visit:www.routledge.com/books/details/9781849712347/.

More information on the book is available at www.environmentalpeacebuilding.org.

On 5 November 2001, the UN General Assembly declared 6 November of each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. Please go to http://www.un.org/en/events/environmentconflictday/ for further details of the Secretary-General's speech.

Photo Credit: sxc.hu/Karol Stróż



Further Resources

Assessing and Restoring Natural Resources in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

Environmental Peacebuilding

International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict

UNEP and Disasters and Conflicts


Follow Us

Keep up to date with UNEP events on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.

Twitter Facebook You Tube

UNEP on Facebook