UNEP offers technical expertise to member states to help transform local and transboundary conflicts over natural resources and the environment into opportunities for confidence building, cooperation, and joint benefit. Upon request, UNEP can act as an impartial expert and trusted third party in the mediation of resource conflicts by drawing on its neutrality, technical orientation, and expertise in environmental cooperation. In addition, UNEP’s expertise is available to international mediation processes where technical natural resource know-how can play a constructive role and complement the mediation team’s competencies. This service can be related to disputed natural resources or using shared natural resources as a platform for cooperation and confidence building between the parties.
Depending on the context and conflict dynamics, UNEP offers a range of different tools and expertise that are collectively referred to as environmental diplomacy support. They can include:
- using the environment as an initial entry point for dialogue between stakeholders within the context of a larger resource dispute;
- facilitating technical solutions for developing a common information base for the parties to populate;
- conducting independent technical assessments based on state-of-the-art science to equalize information between the parties and establish a roadmap for action;
- brokering technical meetings, providing a neutral platform for dialogue, and supporting stakeholder consultation;
- providing comparative examples of solutions that reflect good practice elsewhere or assisting in the analysis of scenarios or alternative solutions;
- building capacity and catalyzing resources for the implementation, monitoring, and validation of action plans and projects by the parties.
In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 65/283, on “Strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution.” Paragraph 11 of the resolution, requests the Secretary-General to develop further guidance for effective mediation by drawing on lessons learned. As a response to this call, UNEP and the UN Department for Political Affairs (UN DPA) established a collaborative research project to document lessons learned in the mediation of resource disputes at the local and transboundary levels, as well as within broader peace agreements. The scope of the work covered extractive resources, land and water. The resulting report “Natural Resources and Conflict: A Guide for Mediation Practitioners” was launched in February 2015 by the Deputy Secretary General Jan Ellison.
Environmental diplomacy and mediation can be applied at the local level, the national level and the regional level where cooperation over natural resources can be brokered between divided groups.
UNEP has been pilot testing different approaches and undertaking field-level research to determine how the policy work on environmental diplomacy and mediation best translates into practical action on the ground.
As part of the work at the regional level, a joint study entitled Livelihood Security: Climate Change, Migration and Conflict in the Sahel was published in December 2011. This study analyzes the historical climate trends in the region, identifies hotspots, determines the potential implications for resource-dependent livelihoods, and provides recommendations for improving conflict sensitivity in adaptation planning, investments and policies across the region. The study concludes that changing climatic conditions and their effect on the availability of natural resources, have lead to migration and increased competition over scarce resources and migration, which can lead to an increase in conflicts between different livelihood groups and communities. In this context of increased competition for natural resources, regional cooperation will be key to diffusing tensions, managing the risks, and curtailing the possibility of conflicts. Issues of climate change and migration are regional in nature and should therefore be managed at this same level. For more information go to the Sahel report page.
UNEP has also been working with the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, exploring challenges and opportunities for cooperation around natural resources in the border zone. A report entitled Haiti-Dominican Republic: Environmental Challenges in the Border Zone, will be published in mid 2013. UNEP has also conducted regional level environmental diplomacy work between Afghanistan and Iran and between Iraq and Iran on transboundary water, as well as conducting an independent analysis of the levels of oil contamination in Ogoniland in the Niger delta as a step to bring together the various parties in this long-lasting dispute.
A number of UNEP’s country programmes have also provided environmental diplomacy and mediation support to address resource conflicts and to use the environment as a basis for cooperation between divided groups. These include both operations in Sudan and in Afghanistan.
The publications resulting from UNEP’s work on Environmental Diplomacy and Mediation support include:
For a full list of all ECP publications click here.
For further information on the Environmental Diplomacy programme please contact:
Head of ECP