UNEP calls on peace missions to adopt environmental technologies and sustainable management practices
Nairobi, 11 March 2009 - The impact of peacekeeping operations on critical natural resources is being highlighted this week at a gathering of military and civilian aid experts at the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Studies from various post-conflict countries suggest that the demand for critical natural resources such as wood and water by peacekeepers can be significant. In vulnerable environments, this could have an impact on peacekeeping itself.
Through better planning and management practices, however, this demand could be drastically reduced and even contribute to overall recovery, peacebuilding and development prospects in crisis-affected regions.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "The primary role of international peacekeeping forces and aid agencies is to keep the peace and support vulnerable communities during difficult and distressing times."
"But they also have the responsibility to ensure that their presence and operations have a minimal ecological footprint and do not aggravate environmental degradation, which may be a dimension of the conflict," he added.
The meeting, hosted by UNEP and co-organized by the Swedish Defence Research Agency, the UN Department of Field Support, the UN Mission in Sudan, and the Environmental Law Institute, looked at concrete ways to integrate sustainable practices into peacekeeping and relief operations.
These include new technologies to ensure water and energy efficiency, or alternative construction techniques to minimize deforestation.
"There is a growing awareness of the need for action", said Mr. Steiner, "and momentum is now building to find ways of protecting the environment and the long-term livelihoods of affected communities. Some agencies are already leading the way. Their examples of good practice must be built upon to promote this important agenda."
The UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan, for example, is investing USD 5 million to green the operations of its 10,000 troops spread across 25 bases. Supported on a pilot basis by the Government of Sweden, the mission is introducing new technologies for the treatment of waste and the efficient use of water and energy, with the ambitious goal of reducing water consumption by 30 percent, energy expenditure by 25 percent, and the volume of waste by 60 percent.