How can environmental cooperation be used to bolster regional peace? A large body of research suggests that environmental degradation may catalyze violent conflict. Environmental cooperation, in contrast, has gone almost unexplored as a means of peacemaking, even though it opens several effective channels: enhancing trust, establishing habits of cooperation, lengthening the time horizons of decisionmakers, forging cooperative trans-societal linkages, and creating shared regional norms and identities.

This volume examines the case for environmental peacemaking by comparing progress, prospects, and problems related to environmental peacemaking initiatives in six regions—South Asia, Central Asia, the Baltics, Southern Africa, the Caucasus, and the U.S.-Mexico border. The regions vary dramatically in terms of scale, interdependencies, history, and kinds of insecurity. But each is marked by a highly fluid, changing security order, creating a potential for environmental cooperation to have a catalytic effect on peacemaking.

Among the volume’s key findings are these: that substantial potential for environmental peacemaking exists in most regions; that significant tensions from narrower efforts to improve the strategic climate among mistrustful governments can impair broader trans-societal efforts to build environmental peace; and that the effects of environmental peacemaking initiatives are highly sensitive to the ways they are institutionalized.

Ken Conca is professor of global environmental governance at the School of International Service at American University and former Wilson Center fellow. Geoffrey D. Dabelko is a professor and director of environmental studies for the George V. Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University and the former director of, and current senior advisor to, the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program.


1. The Case for Environmental Peacemaking
Ken Conca

2. Environmental Cooperation and Regional Peace: Baltic Programs and Prospects
Stacy D. VanDeveer

3. Environmental Cooperation in South Asia
Ashok Swain

4. The Promises and Pitfalls of Environmental Peacemaking in the Aral Sea Basin
Erika Weinthal

5. Environmental Cooperation for Regional Peace and Security in Southern Africa
Larry A. Swatuk

6. Beyond Reciprocity: Governance and Cooperation in the Caspian Sea
Douglas W. Blum

7. Water Cooperation in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region
Pamela M. Doughman

8. Conclusion: The Problems and Possibilities of Environmental Peacemaking
Ken Conca and Geoffrey D. Dabelko


“Ken Conca and Geoffrey Dabelko have put together an interesting and useful volume on the potential linkages between environmental cooperation and peace…informative and well written.… [S]hould be read by scholars and policy actors interested in the potential ways environmental cooperations might promote peace rather than violence.”—Rodger A. Payne, ECSP Report

“There is clearly a need for a book on this topic. The time has come to assess the consequences of environmental institutions and the opportunities they provide for cooperation and initiative.”—Raimo Väyrynen, University of Notre Dame

“The arguments developed in Environmental Peacemaking will be of extraordinary value, especially in shared watersheds, if we are to sustainably meet these needs.”—Christopher Behf, Natural Resources Forum

“A provocative and invaluable book… makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the link between environment cooperation and peace.”—Dimitrios Konstadakopulos, American Political Science Review

“It should be of interest to scholars in the field of environmental security, environmental politics and international relations.”—Hilary Nixon, International Environmental Agreements