UN Peacekeeping Set To Benefit From New Environmental Practices Tue, May 1, 2012

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Firewood patrol in Darfur led by the UN-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur. Photo: Albert Gonzalez/UNAMID

New York, 1 May 2012 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has today released the findings of a two-year analysis of how peacekeeping missions around the world affect, and are affected by, natural resources and the broader environment.

In addition to highlighting the utmost importance of reducing the environmental impact of UN Peacekeeping operations, the new report states that the implementation of good practice in this area also has additional benefits, including increased financial savings for missions, and improved safety and security for local communities as well as UN Peacekeeping staff.

The 16 missions currently led by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and supported by the Department of Field Support (DFS) constitute the largest environmental footprint in the UN system.

Entitled Greening the Blue Helmets: Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations, the report notes that through the adoption of a 2009 Environmental Policy, UN Peacekeeping has a robust platform for progress in reducing its environmental impact.

The analysis identifies the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as having made the most progress in introducing environmental practices, with initiatives ranging from the use of electric cars at the mission's headquarters in Naqoura, to energy efficient power generation and the establishment of a community-led recycling plant for plastic bottles, cans and glass.

"The case of UNIFIL illustrates what all our peacekeeping missions are now trying to achieve," remarked the Acting Head of the Department of Field Support, Anthony Banbury.

The Under-Secretary-General and Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, added that "Greening the Blue is not just our motto, it is also our commitment to ensuring that peacekeepers have a lasting and positive impact in countries where they are deployed".

The report also discusses natural resources as drivers of conflict, and recommends that where diamonds, gold, oil and other resources are factors in a conflict, peacekeeping missions should be given a more systematic mandate to support national authorities in restoring the administration of natural resources, monitoring sanctions and prosecuting violations.

UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said that addressing the ownership, control and management of natural resources is crucial to maintaining security and restoring the economy in post-conflict countries.

"There has been little progress in systematically considering and documenting how natural resources can support, advance or undermine the aims of a peacekeeping mission so this report is the first attempt to understand the links and identify good practices and gaps," Mr Steiner said.

Greening the Blue Helmets: Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations is the result of ongoing collaboration between UNEP, DPKO and DFS to increase the consideration given to natural resources and environmental issues in UN Peacekeeping efforts.

The UNEP report is based on desk research, field visits and consultations with DFS and DPKO, including 10 peacekeeping missions.

The report and its separate executive summary may be downloaded from:



For more information, please contact:

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson / Head of Media +254 733 632 755 or nick.nuttall@unep.org

Julie Marks, UNEP Communications Advisor +41 794 419 937 or julie.marks@unep.org

Anayansi Lopez, Public Affairs Section, DPKO +1 9173679050 or lopez12@un.org

Notes to Editors - Supplementary Information

Part 1 of the UNEP report reviews the environmental management of peacekeeping operations, showcases good practices and identifies the main constraints slowing the systematic adoption of the DFS/DPKO Environmental Policy, including resource-efficient practices, technologies and behaviours.

Part 2 examines the role of peacekeeping operations in stabilizing countries where conflicts have been financed by natural resources or driven by grievances over their use. The ways that missions can capitalize on the peacebuilding potential of natural resources through employment and livelihoods, economic recovery, confidence-building and reconciliation are also considered.

The report findings include:

  • Examples of good environmental practice have emerged across all of the main sectors of the peacekeeping infrastructure.  
  • The existing DFS/DPKO Environmental Policy provides a robust platform for progress but its implementation in the field has been limited due to the lack of a universal system for compliance monitoring, dedicated human resources and general awareness of issues addressed by the policy.
  • Uncertainty in the duration of peacekeeping missions is one of the main barriers to them adopting more resource-efficient technologies. However, comparative data revealed that the capital investment for some renewable energy sources - when coupled with energy-efficient building design and technologies - could be recovered in one-to-five years. 
  • Furthermore, simple behavioural changes such as switching-off equipment or small adjustments to room temperature settings, as well as the use of CarLog systems, have resulted in a 15% reduction of energy consumption at the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). In the context of annual fuel expenditure of US$638 million across all missions in 2009, this reduction would represent a potential annual saving of US$95.7 million. 
  • Peacekeeping operations with a link to natural resources have occurred most frequently in Africa, where 13 missions have been conducted to address conflicts fuelled by natural resources, at an estimated cost of US$32 billion.
  • While the Security Council has incrementally improved the scope of the mandates given to peacekeeping missions in addressing natural resources, successful implementation continues to be hampered by factors such as a lack of technical and financial capacity at the mission, host-government interference and the illegal actions of private sector actors or armed groups.
  • While only 54% of peace agreements reached between 1989 and 2004 contained provisions on natural resources, all of the major peace agreements concluded between 2005 to 2010 included such provisions. Peacekeeping operations may need to build new capacities and partnerships to support the implementation of these provisions.
  • Natural resources can provide opportunities for emergency employment and the establishment of sustainable livelihoods for former combatants. On average over half of ex-combatants return to agriculture-based livelihoods, and in some cases up to 80% require focused attention on land tenure and water access issues.

UNEP's analysis was conducted to inform the scope of future peacekeeping mandates together with the development of new peacekeeping policies and practices addressing natural resource governance in post-conflict countries.

The report contains actionable policy recommendations for improving the environmental performance of peacekeeping operations, as well as capitalizing on the peacebuilding potential of natural resources while minimizing their possible contribution to conflict relapse and insecurity.

The key recommendations include:

  • Effective implementation of the DFS/DPKO Environmental Policy should be ensured through the development of universal compliance monitoring mechanisms, appropriate staffing and training. It should take into account the size and geographic location of a peacekeeping camp, local climatic and disaster risks, security conditions, anticipated energy, water and waste demands, and the capacities of respective mission personnel throughout all stages of a mission's life-cycle.
  • As a direct follow-up to this recommendation, UNEP has partnered with the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) to prepare a set of four training modules aimed at increasing general awareness of key environmental and natural resource concepts among peacekeeping staff. The first of the training modules entitled "Introduction to Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations", is available from today at: http://stream.unitar.org/ptp/StartCourse/player.html.  The remaining three training modules, looking at more specific issues, such as the role of natural resources in the work of Civil Affairs and of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration programmes as well as the environmental footprint of peacekeeping operations, are currently being developed will be available in the near future.
  • Where natural resources have fuelled or financed conflict, peacekeeping missions should be given a more systematic mandate to support national authorities in restoring the administration of natural resources, enforcing national laws, monitoring sanctions and supporting the prosecution of violations.
  • The UN Security Council should be systematically informed of the linkages between natural resources and conflict in countries where it is considering authorizing a peacekeeping mission.  Where sanctions regimes are in place or being considered, briefings could include ways for the peacekeeping mission to support or cooperate with expert panels, as well as ways to help build the capacity of national authorities to monitor and enforce sanctions.
  • Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration programmes delivered by peacekeeping missions and development partners should systematically consider emergency employment and livelihoods recovery based on the sustainable use of natural resources.
  • An expert panel on natural resources and fragile States should be established by the appropriate UN mechanism with a mandate to review and document good practice in various aspects of natural resource management in fragile States.
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