Blue helmets, aid workers must ‘green’ their operations – UN

11 March 2009

Military and civilian aid experts at a United Nations-backed meeting today emphasized the need for a peacekeepers and aid agencies to take a ‘green’ approach in their work to protect the environment and the long-term livelihoods of communities affected by conflict.

Studies have shown that the demand for such critical natural resources as wood and water by peacekeepers can often be significant, straining vulnerable environments.

But this demand could be considerably curbed through better planning and management – including the use of new technologies that guarantee water and energy efficiency as well as construction methods that minimize deforestation – and even play a part in recovery, development and peace consolidated in areas hit by hostilities.

International peacekeeping forces and aid organizations “have the responsibility to ensure that their presence and operations have a minimal ecological footprint and do not aggravate environmental degradation, which may be a dimension of the conflict,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

The day-long gathering at the Nairobi headquarters of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) was co-organized by the UN Department of Field Support (DFS), the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), the Swedish Defence Research Agency and the Environmental Law Institute.

UNMIS, with the support of the Swedish Government, is investing $5 million in environmentally-friendly operations for its 10,000 troops in 25 bases. As part of this pilot programme, the Mission is using new ways of treating waste and using both water and energy more efficiently, with the goal of reducing the volume of waste by 60 per cent, water consumption by 30 per cent and energy expenditure by 25 per cent.

A new UNEP report, entitled “From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment,” was presented at today’s Nairobi’s gathering.

The publication notes that at least 18 conflicts since 1990 have been triggered by the exploitation of natural resources, with at least 40 per cent of all civil clashes in the past six decades being linked to these resources.

It stresses that the way the environment is handled can influence post-conflict peacebuilding and stability.

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