Tuesday, November 08, 2011

UN Chief Underlines Role of Peacekeeping in Ensuring Just Use of Natural Resources

In a message commemorating the International Dar for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, the UN Secretary General, Ben Ki-moon, said that the United Nations has an important role to play in protecting the environment. Ban noted that United Nations peace keeps are in a unique position to influence how the environment is protected and natural resources are managed. Since the day was first recognized ten years ago, the United Nations has made a great deal of progress in understanding the relationship between war, environment, and the role that natural resources play in fueling and financing instability and violence.

Although environmental factors are rarely, if ever, the sole cause of violence, the exploitation of natural resources and related environmental stresses can be implicated in all phases of the conflict cycle, from contributing to the outbreak and perpetuation of violence to undermining prospects for peace. Since the 1990s at least eighteen violent conflicts have been fuelled by the exploitation of natal resources. Recent research suggests that over the last sixty years at least forty per cent of all interstate conflicts have a link to natural resources. Civil wars such as those in Liberia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo have centered on “high-value” resources like timber, diamonds, gold, minerals and oil. Other conflicts, including those in Darfur and the Middle East, have involved control of scarce resources such as fertile land and water. As the global population continues to rise, and the demand for resources continues to grow, there is significant potential for conflicts over natural resources to intensify. While the relationship between the environment and conflicts multidimensional and complex, three principle pathways can be drawn
  1.  Natural resources and the environment contribute to the outbreak of conflic
  2. Natural resources and the environment help to finance and sustain conflict 
  3. Natural resources and the environment can undermine peace and security  
In his commemorative statement Ban said that “As we mark this International Day, let us recognize the wide-ranging and long-term consequences of damaging the environment – both in peace and times of war. And let us reaffirm our commitment to the sustainable management of natural resources as a critical element of durable peace and security.” Mr. Ban’s commits are an important step in integrating environmental questions into peacekeeping strategies. 

 -Madeline Lee