UN Environment aims to use environmental cooperation to transform the risks of conflicts over resources into opportunities for stability and peacebuilding. Natural resources often play a role in fuelling conflicts, undermining peacebuilding efforts and contributing to a relapse in conflict if they are not properly managed.
Natural resources and the environment can be involved in all phases of the conflict cycle: from contributing to the outbreak and perpetuation of conflict and to spoiling the prospects for peace. The way that natural resources and the environment are governed has a determining influence on peace and security.
Investing in environmental management and the governance of natural resources is an investment in conflict prevention. Cooperation over the management of natural resources and the environment provides new opportunities for peacebuilding.
This work is primarily supported by the Government of Finland and the European Commission's Instrument for Stability.
Dominican Republic and Haiti:
UN Environment and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) accompanied the Governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, through their Ministries of Environment, in undertaking a detailed assessment of the border area.
Economic and resource inequalities between the two countries are the cause of many of the transboundary problems identified in the border zone. Several of the identified issues related to the environment and the use of natural resources also present a short term but high instability and conflict risk to the relations between the two countries.
Fourteen recommendations were developed with and accepted by the two governments. The recommendations are expected to reduce chronic poverty and hunger in the border zone, while promoting more sustainable livelihood practices and enhancing the resilience of the population to shocks and stresses. They also set out to preserve peaceful relations between the two countries through increased national and local level bilateral cooperation that will reduce tensions and conflict risks over border zone issues.
The work in the Dominican Republic and Haiti was financially supported by the governments of Norway and Finland.
Ecuador and Peru: The transboundary Condor conservation corridor
The Cordillera del Cóndor is a mountain range that stretches more than 160 kilometres above the Upper Marañon River, where the Amazon River begins. The remoteness and inaccessibility have allowed the region to maintain its pristine Amazonian biodiversity, with dense cloud forests and exceptionally rich biodiversity.
A border dispute lasting 150 years had left both countries with deeply entrenched positions over ownership of the Condor Range. Following a request from both countries, a mediation process started and eventually led to the signing of the "Acta Presidencial de Brasilia" in 1998.
Both countries agreed to establish protected and demilitarised ecological parks on the adjacent sides of the border. Although these parks remained under the respective states’ sovereign authority, the agreement also established commitments to coordinate conservation and environmental management initiatives.
An information system for the entire mountain range was established, incorporating the biological knowledge acquired by both countries, and a common geographic information system for joint use. The two governments agreed to coordinate the implementation of concerted conservation actions and to develop binational policies in the Condor Range.
Natural Resources and Conflicts: A Guide for Mediation Practitioners
UN Environment, in cooperation with the Environmental Law Institute and the International Committee of the Red Cross, published a flagship policy report in 2009 entitled “Protecting the Environment During Armed Conflict: An Inventory and Analysis of International Law."
The report was based on an analysis of existing international legal frameworks, and on the outcomes of an expert meeting of twenty leading specialists in international law in March 2009.
The report is aimed at the legal community as well as policy and decision-makers. It identifies the current gaps and weaknesses in the international legal framework for protecting the environment during armed conflict and concludes with twelve concrete recommendations on ways to strengthen the law and its enforcement.