While natural resources are key assets to achieve sustainable development, they are also increasingly acting as drivers of violent conflict and instability. This problem is especially acute in fragile states and post-conflict countries which fundamentally depend on harnessing their resource wealth in order to stabilize and develop. Yet these countries also have the lowest capacity to capture the multiple benefits from natural resources without triggering new sources of conflict, causing major environmental degradation or unleashing the “resource curse".
As the global population continues to rise, and the global demand for resources continues to grow, natural resources held in fragile states are becoming the next frontier for an intensified resource scramble. As countries and companies compete to secure concessions and remaining supplies, fragile states are particularly vulnerable to poor contract terms, non-transparent decision making, negative impacts and corruption. To prevent this natural wealth from being pillaged and plundered in the years ahead, many fragile states are seeking international assistance to adopt forward looking and innovative policies and safeguards to protect and manage their resource endowments, including mechanisms to resolve conflicts, promote transparency and accountability, involve the public in decision making and ensure the fair distribution of benefits. In short, capitalizing on the promise offered by natural resources while avoiding the peril.
The overall aim of the Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding programme is to assist countries, regional organizations and the UN system to assess and transform potential sources of conflict over natural resources into an opportunity for cooperation and a platform for peacebuilding. The programme offers risk assessments, technical advice, targeted training, and a neutral platform for stakeholder dialogue.
To achieve this goal, the programme consists of four pillars which link to the main peace and security communities of practice across the UN system:
Conflict Prevention, Peacebuilding and Natural Resources :Assisting fragile states and the UN system to assess and integrate risks and opportunities from natural resources and the environment into conflict prevention and peacebuilding strategies; and catalyzing the development of joint programmes and implementing foundational activities that strengthen government and civil society capacity for addressing conflict risks and peacebuilding opportunities from natural resources.
Greening Peacekeeping Operations: Making UN peacekeeping operations greener, safer, more efficient and resilient by promoting and implementing good environmental and natural resource management practices; This is achieved by providing technical expertise on topics such as energy and water use, waste management, wildlife protection, environmental assessment and management, and natural resource governance.
Environmental Diplomacy and Mediation: Using shared natural resources or common environmental threats as a platform for dialogue, confidence-building and cooperation between divided communities or countries; and acting as a third party in the resolution of existing conflicts over natural resources by drawing on UNEP’s neutrality, convening power and technical orientation.
Legal Protection: Improving the protection of natural resources and the environment during armed conflicts through the promotion of international legal instruments; and supporting the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, which takes place each year on 6 November.
Within each pillar, UNEP partners with key UN actors to jointly develop evidence-based policy reports and issue recommendations based on its findings. This policy work is then translated and applied to the field level through the establishment of field projects and training events.