The shear size of today’s peacekeeping operations places considerable demands on the environment and natural resources in post-conflict countries that often lack basic infrastructure to cope with these pressures. Close to 120,000 peacekeepers serving across 15 missions are responsible for over half of the total UN’s greenhouse gas emissions, produce over 180 tonnes of solid waste daily and consume 10 million litres of water every day.
Furthermore, at least 40 percent of internal conflicts over the last 60 years have been linked to natural resources and all major peace agreements since 2005 have included natural resource provisions. A total of 17 peacekeeping operations, representing half of the total peacekeeping expenditure to date, have been deployed to countries where conflicts have had clear links to natural resources.
Against this background, the primary objective of this pillar is to decrease the overall consumption of natural resources and the production of waste, and thereby reduce potential conflicts with local communities, protect local environmental health and establish the UN as a role model for sustainable practices. Furthermore, the implementation of resource-efficient practices, technologies and behaviours in the field is demonstrated to have a significant potential to reduce the cost of peacekeeping while improving self-sufficiency and resilience.
The secondary objective of the environment and peacekeeping pillar addresses the nexus between natural resources and conflict. It seeks to better understand how peacekeeping missions can help member states restore the administration over natural resources and extent state authority over resources that have fuelled or financed conflicts.
In order to avoid and minimize the negative environmental impacts of peacekeeping missions and to improve their operational efficiency, Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support (DPKO and DFS), with technical support from UNEP, have adopted the “Environmental Policy for UN field missions” in June 2009. The environmental policy provides a set of minimum standards to be implemented across all UN field missions and it covers the following issues: energy, water, waste, wildlife and fauna, the management of cultural and historical resources, and environmental management and assessment.
Following the adoption of the policy and building on good cooperation established during its development, UNEP has continued to provide technical support to DPKO and DFS on improving the policy and associated guidelines.
The latest milestone of this partnership is the landmark policy report titled, “Greening the Blue Helmets: Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations”. The report, published on 1 May 2012, provides the results of a two-year policy implementation analysis showcasing good practices, technologies and behaviours that have already been adopted; and identifying areas where further improvements are needed.
Financed by the Government of Finland, this two-year analysis is based on desk research, field visits and consultations with 10 UN peacekeeping missions. The report reviews the environmental management of peacekeeping operations, showcases good practices and identifies the main constraints affecting the systematic adoption of the DFS/DPKO Environmental Policy. Additionally, it examines the role of peacekeeping operations in stabilizing countries where conflicts have been financed by natural resources or driven by grievances over their use. It also considers how peacekeepers can capitalize on the peacebuilding potential of natural resources through employment, economic recovery and reconciliation. The report highlights the importance of reducing the environmental impact of UN peacekeeping operations, and states that the implementation of good practices in this area has benefits such as increased financial savings for missions, and improved safety and security for local communities as well as UN peacekeeping staff.
Based on the report’s conclusions and recommendations, UNEP, DFS and DPKO have developed and started to implement a five year technical cooperation framework aimed at systematic and complete implementation of the environmental policy across all peacekeeping missions by 2018.
To date, UNEP’s assistance in the field included detailed technical assessments and provision of face to face training. Technical assessments of energy, water and waste reduction options were carried out for peacekeeping bases in South Sudan, Somalia and Kenya.
Furthermore, UNEP, in collaboration with the Swedish Defense Research Agency (FOI), has piloted reduced-scope Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Environmental Baseline Surveys (EBSs) for new peacekeeping camps in Kenya and Somalia.
As part of the face to face training programme on environment, natural resources and peacekeeping UNEP has delivered a week-long training for environmental officers and focal points from different peacekeeping missions, in Nairobi, Kenya; training for the military and civilian peacekeeping personnel in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; as well as two, one week-long pre-deployment training sessions for peacekeepers and government officials from Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Libya and Eritrea at the Cairo Regional Center for Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping in Africa (CCCPA), in Cairo, Egypt.
Looking ahead, the new five year cooperation framework between UNEP and DPKO/DFS offers a unique opportunity to significantly increase the scale of assistance to field operations, leading to systematic and permanent incorporation of good environmental practice into the very fabric of peacekeeping.
As direct follow-up to the “Greening the Blue Helmets: Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations” report, a series of e-training modules is being produced in partnership with UNITAR and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). The first module was launched in May 2012, titled, “Introduction to environment, natural resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations”. This general awareness training targets all military, police and civilian peacekeeping personnel and it provides a basic introduction to the role of natural resources and the environment in contributing to conflict and peacebuilding. It explores the benefits of addressing these issues as part of peacekeeping operations and outlines individual responsibilities for environmental management, drawing on the DFS/DPKO Environmental Policy.
Upcoming training modules will be more specialized and will target peacekeeping staff with specific responsibilities related to environmental issues or in areas that could impact the governance or use of natural resources.
More information on the training modules can be found on UNITAR’s website.
Publications of this pillar
The publications that have resulted from this pillar of work include:
For a full list of all ECP publications click here.
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