The Environment and Conflict Prevention Initiative, developed by UNEP's Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA) to promote conflict prevention, peace, and cooperation through environmental protection, restoration, and resources, has organized an experts group to provide guidance and scientific support to the initiative. Following last week's meeting in Bonn, Germany, the members of the experts group will develop regional assessments of environment and conflict prevention linkages, which will be carried out in collaboration with regional centers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These efforts will focus in part on institutional means to use the environment as a pathway to cooperation.

The Environment and Conflict Prevention Initiative's first case study will focus on the Great Lakes region of Africa. Together with DEWA's and UNEP's regional offices, the initiative helped organize a meeting on the region's environmental issues for the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, a series of preparatory meetings leading up to the first conference of heads of state in Dar es Salaam in November 2004. Drawing upon the initiative's input, the heads of state declared that they were "fully aware of the link between peace, environment, and development" and especially concerned about the impact of armed conflicts on the ecosystem of the Congo River Basin and the Great Lakes region (Dar-Es-Salaam declaration, page 1). They called for promoting "regional policies and strategies for…sustained and sound management of vital regional natural and environmental resources" (Dar-Es-Salaam declaration, pages 5-6).

Patricia Kameri-Mbote of the University of Nairobi, a member of the experts group, has taken an initial inventory of experts and institutions addressing environment, conflict, and cooperation in the Great Lakes. She will next investigate a number of ecosystems (e.g., national parks, Lake Victoria, coastal areas) that may be at risk of conflict and analyze how and why cooperation could be enhanced in order to promote peace. The initiative plans to organize meetings of stakeholders and representatives of the Great Lakes countries on these topics, and feed the results into the next conference's preparatory meetings.

The initiative's first workshop, the "Environment, Conflict, and Cooperation" conference co-sponsored by ECSP, brought together 32 scholars and practitioners representing 17 countries to debate the gaps and opportunities in our understanding of the links among environment, conflict, and cooperation. The report Understanding Environment, Conflict, and Cooperation, which emerged from that conference, identifies gaps and opportunities in environment, conflict, and cooperation research and policy, analyzes the relationship between environmental degradation and political instability, and identifies what we do not understand about it.

UNEP's Our Planet Brings Environmental Security to Wider Audience

UNEP continues to expand the United Nations' work on environmental security, inviting world leaders to introduce the concept to the general public in the latest issue of its magazine, Our Planet.

Executive Director Klaus Toepfer cites recent UN reports that argue, "Environmental sustainability is a critical foundation for ending poverty, and…a considerable body of scientific data points to environmental degradation as a direct cause of many of the most pressing issues we face, including poverty, declining human health, hunger, undrinkable water, emerging diseases, rural-urban migration, and civil strife." Nobel Peace Prize-winner Wangari Maathai concurs: "There can be no peace without equitable development, and there can be no development without sustainable management of the environment in a democratic and peaceful space."

Steve Lonergan, director of DEWA and head of the Environment and Conflict Initiative, writes that tensions over water will increase as scarcity increases, but that outright conflict can be avoided. Pekka Haavisto, head of UNEP's Post-Conflict Assessment Unit, proposes that "Green Helmets" could provide environmental protection during times of conflict and in post-conflict situations, if the political will and technical capacities are in place. Other interviews and articles by former U.S. presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman on climate change, OCSE Secretary-General Jan Kubis on the Southern Caucasus, President Gayoom of the Maldives on the tsunami, and former CIA Director James Woolsey on energy security, join comments by ministers of the environment from Georgia, Iran, and Indonesia.

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