UNEP worked in Sierra Leone between 2009 and 2012 to assess and address the environmental causes and consequences of the 1991-2002 civil war.
During the 11-year civil conflict in Sierra Leone, natural resources such as diamonds were used to fund combatants, and became the spoils of war. From youth estrangement to rural alienation, many of the conditions that facilitated the onset of the conflict continue today, aggravated by concerns over unfair distribution of benefits, opaque governance processes and inefficient and unsustainable practices.
These were the key messages of a UNEP report entitled Sierra Leone: Environment, Conflict and Peacebuilding Assessment, which was launched in Freetown in May 2010. Improving the management of Sierra Leone’s environment and natural resources is vital to the country’s development, especially given the close links between the country’s resources and its continued peace and stability, economic development, rural integration and governance capacity.
In recognition of their critical value, the government of Sierra Leone has made better management of its environment and natural resources a key peace and development priority, most importantly in the government’s strategic plan, the “Agenda for Change”.
Working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), UNEP developed a programme of capacity-building assistance and technical support. This initiative, called “Programme 21: Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding,” was a joint UN programme focused solely on environmental and natural resource issues. Programme 21 was a part of the UN’s “Joint Vision,” which is an integrated response by the UN to the Government’s own “Agenda for Change”.