Building Peace Through Environmental Cooperation

Worldwatch's State of the World 2005 Includes Chapter on Environmental Peacemaking

Jan 12, 2005

A growing array of initiatives—including peace parks, shared river basin management plans, regional seas agreements, and joint environmental monitoring programs—blend ecology and politics in the service of peace. Environmental peacemaking uses cooperative efforts to manage environmental resources as a way to transform insecurities and create more peaceful relations between parties in dispute. As such initiatives become more frequent and gain momentum, they may transform both how people approach conflict and how people view the environment.

As a peacemaking tool, the environment offers some useful—perhaps even unique—qualities that lend themselves to building peace and transforming conflict: environmental challenges ignore political boundaries, require a long-term perspective, encourage local and nongovernmental participation, and extend community building beyond polarizing economic linkages. These properties sometimes make cross-border environmental cooperation difficult to achieve. But where cooperation does take root, it may help to enhance trust, establish cooperative habits, create shared regional identities around shared resources, and establish mutually recognized rights and expectations.

Recognizing the potentially critical linkages between the environment and insecurity, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for integrating environmental contributions to conflict and instability into the U.N.'s conflict prevention strategy and the deliberations of his High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change. Surprisingly, however, relatively little is known about the best design for environmental peacemaking initiatives or the conditions under which they are most likely to succeed. Without better knowledge and a stronger commitment to study current efforts, the international community may be missing powerful peacemaking opportunities in the environmental domain.

The 2005 edition of Worldwatch's annual State of the World report, Redefining Global Security, examines the underlying sources of global insecurity, including the perilous interplay among poverty, infectious disease, environmental degradation, and rising competition for resources. ECSP Director Geoffrey Dabelko co-authored "Building Peace Through Environmental Cooperation" with Alexander Carius and Ken Conca; it is available from Worldwatch here.

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Experts & Staff

  • Roger-Mark De Souza // Director of Population, Environmental Security and Resilience, Wilson Center
  • Sandeep Bathala // Senior Program Associate, Environmental Change and Security Program, Maternal Health Initiative
  • Katharine Diamond // Program Assistant, Environmental Change and Security Program
  • Benjamin Dills // Program Assistant, Environmental Change and Security Program
  • Lauren Herzer // Program Associate, Environmental Change and Security Program
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  • Schuyler Null // Web Editor and Writer/Editor, Environmental Change and Security Program, Maternal Health Initiative
  • Meaghan Parker // Writer/Editor, Environmental Change and Security Program
  • Sean Peoples // Multimedia Producer and Program Associate, Environmental Change and Security Program
  • Geoffrey D. Dabelko // Senior Advisor, Environmental Change and Security Program
  • Ruth Greenspan Bell // Public Policy Scholar
  • William Krist // Senior Policy Scholar
  • Louise Lief // Public Policy Scholar
  • John W. Sewell // Senior Scholar