Friday, May 11, 2012

United Nations spends US$ 32bn to address natural resources-related conflicts

BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE

A new report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), titled Greening the Blue Helmets: Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations, discloses that peacekeeping operations to address conflicts fuelled by natural resources, have cost the system about US$ 32 billion.

Most of the natural resources-related conflicts have also occurred in Africa, where the UN has conducted 13 different missions, the report states further.

Publishing this as one of the key findings of a two-year analysis on how peacekeeping missions around the world affect, and are affected by natural resources and the broader environment, the UNEP states; “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.”

The desk research report released Tuesday May 1, 2012, indicates further that 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.

It however states that even though 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, adding “Peacekeeping operations may need to build new capacities and partnerships to support the implementation of these provisions.”

According to the UNEP, natural resources can also provide opportunities for emergency employment and the establishment of sustainable livelihoods for former combatants, divulging that on the average, over half of ex-combatants return to agriculture-based livelihoods, while in some cases up to 80% require focused attention on land tenure and water access issues.

The report also establishes that although examples of good environmental practice have emerged across all of the main sectors of the peacekeeping infrastructure and the existing Department of Field Support/Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DFS/DPKO) Environmental Policy provides a robust platform for progress, 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.

Findings of the research also include uncertainty in the duration of peacekeeping missions as one of the main barriers to them adopting more resource-efficient technologies, although 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 Car Log systems, the research found, have resulted in a 15% reduction of energy consumption at the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).

The report states that 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. 

Apart from the findings, the “Greening the Blue Helmets: Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations” report makes some key recommendations as follows:

·        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.

·        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 authorising 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, Demobilisation 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.

The UNEP report is in two parts, with the first part reviewing the environmental management of peacekeeping operations, showcasing good practices and identifying the main constraints slowing the systematic adoption of the DFS/DPKO Environmental Policy, including resource-efficient practices, technologies and behaviours.

Part two on the other hand examines the role of peacekeeping operations in stabilising countries where conflicts have been financed by natural resources or driven by grievances over their use, as well as the ways that missions can capitalise on the peace building potential of natural resources, through employment and livelihoods, economic recovery, confidence-building and reconciliation.

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, which contains actionable policy recommendations for improving the environmental performance of peacekeeping operations, also capitalises on the peace building potential of natural resources while minimising their possible contribution to conflict relapse and insecurity.

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