Natural resources often play a role in fuelling conflicts, undermining peacebuilding efforts and contributing to a relapse in conflict if they are not properly managed. Indeed, over the past 60 years, at least 40% of internal conflicts had a link to natural resources and since 1990 there have been at least 18 violent conflicts fuelled by the exploitation of natural resources. It is also the case that conflicts with a natural resource link are more likely to relapse within five years of a peace agreement.
The recognition that natural resources and environmental issues can contribute to violent conflict underscores their potential significance as pathways for stabilization, cooperation, and the consolidation of peace in war-torn societies. Natural resources and the environment can contribute to peacebuilding through economic development and sustainable livelihoods, while cooperation over their management provides new opportunities for dialogue and reconciliation between divided groups. These factors, however, must be taken into consideration from the outset of a peacebuilding process.
To support the UN's peace and security architecture, UNEP is providing technical expertise on now natural resources and the environmental can contribute to more effective conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding. UNEP’s goal is to ensure natural resource and environmental risks and opportunities are fully considered and integrated into stabilization and peacebuilding strategies.
The work in this pillar is primarily supported by the Government of Finland and the European Commission's Instrument for Stability.
UNEP has been working at the global policy level to help the UN system understand natural resources, conflict and peacebuilding linkages and to adopt new policies and programmes. This has involved the development of a joint policy report with the UN Peacebuilding Support Office, providing technical inputs to the Secretary General’s annual report on peacebuilding, and chairing the development of a UN-wide guidance note on natural resource management in post-conflict transition settings as part of a dedicated task team within the UN Development Group.
As part of its policy work in this pillar, UNEP published a report entitled From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment. This report aims to summarize current knowledge on the links between environment, conflict and peacebuilding through thirteen field-based case studies.
Based on its analysis, UNEP’s report draws three key conclusions for future UN peacemaking and peacebuilding operations. First, natural resources and the environment can be involved in all phases of the conflict cycle: from contributing to the outbreak and perpetuation of conflict and to spoiling the prospects for peace. The way that natural resources and the environment are governed has a determining influence on peace and security. Secondly, investing in environmental management and the governance of natural resources is an investment in conflict prevention. Finally, cooperation over the management of natural resources and the environment provides new opportunities for peacebuilding that should be pursued.
As the basis for evidence-based policy making and field programming, UNEP also established a global research programme on post-conflict peacebuilding and natural resources together with the Environmental Law Institute and the Universities of Tokyo and McGill. This four-year research project has yielded more than 150 peer-reviewed case studies and analyses by over 230 scholars, practitioners, and decision makers from 55 countries. In their diversity and number, the books represent the most significant collection to date of experiences, analyses, and lessons in managing natural resources to support post-conflict peacebuilding.
One of the main operational activities of this pillar is conducted through the EU-UN Partnership on Land and Natural Resource Conflicts, in which UNEP, five UN partners and the European Union are working to support countries to improve natural resource management for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Through this partnership, technical assistance will be provided to help national stakeholders, as well as UN and EU staff in conflict-affected countries, to better understand and prevent tensions over environmental issues and the management of natural resources. For more information please see the EU-UN partnership page.
In 2013, in collaboration with the EU-UN Partnership, UNEP will begin work in both Côte d’Ivoire and complete an assessment from Afghanistan on risks and opportunities related to natural resources. UNEP will also engage in the Great Lakes region with the EU-UN Partnership to help build civil society capacity to participate in natural resource decision making, dispute resolution, and concession monitoring.
Past field operations on Conflict Prevention, Peacebuilding and Natural Resources have taken place in Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic as agenda countries of the Peacebuilding Commission. In both countries, UNEP provided technical analysis and support to peacebuilding plans. The output documents of both of these field operations were “Central African Republic: Environment, Conflict and Peacebuilding Assessment”, and “Sierra Leone: Environment, Conflict and Peacebuilding Assessment.” In Sierra Leone, UNEP was then requested to implement an Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding programme as part of the agenda for change. For more information see the Sierra Leone country programme webpage.
One of the key outputs of the EU-UN partnership has been the development of four on-line training modules on land, natural resources and conflict. ECP also delivers customized training on natural resources, conflict and peacebuilding upon request. For more information on training, click here
Publications of this pillar
The publications that have resulted from this pillar of work include:
- UN Country Team Report: Natural Resource Management and Peacebuilding in Afghanistan
- UN Country Team Guidance Chart on Natural Resource Management and Peacebuilding in Afghanistan
- From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and the
- UN Guidance note on Natural Resources Management in Transition Settings
- Six guidance notes on land, natural resources and conflict from the EU-UN Partnership
- Six books of 150 case studies on post-conflict peacebuilding and natural resources
- Sierra Leone: Environment, Conflict and Peacebuilding Assessment
- Central African Republic: Environment, Conflict and Peacebuilding Assessment
- Post-conflict peacebuilding and natural resources: the promise and the peril. (synthesis book of lessons learned from 150 case studies on post-conflict peacebuilding and natural resources)
- Jensen, D. (2009). From conflict to peacebuilding: UNEP’s Role in Environmental Assessment and Recovery. Environmental Change and Security Programme: Washington, D.C.
- Bruch, C., Jensen, D., Nakayama, M., Unruh, J., Gruby, R., and R. Wolfarth. (2008). “Post-conflict peacebuilding and natural resources.” In O. Kristian Fauchald, D. Hunter, and W. Xi (Eds.) Yearbook of International Environmental Law. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
For a full list of all ECP publications click here.
For further information please contact David Jensen, Head of ECP, at: firstname.lastname@example.org