Environmental protection and peacekeeping

To maintain their livelihood, many people in developing countries depend on access to natural resources such as soil, water or forests. If due to overuse, environmental degradation or climatic changes, access to essential resources is no longer ensured, violent clashes may erupt.

Environmental protection and peacekeeping

Resulting migratory movements may pose a major threat to the stability of the countries affected. In some countries, lack of access to land or legally unregulated land rights have led to violent disputes. Conflicts can also ensue from the construction of large-scale dams, which often entails resettlement and may have severe consequences for local populations. Moreover, the distribution of income earned from raw material extraction, and the use of resources such as oil, timber, gold, diamonds or minerals can lead to conflicts between different groups within the population of a country or between the government and its people. In Nigeria, for example, environmental degradation through petroleum extraction has long been a contentious issue between the affected population, oil companies, and the government.

Promoting de-escalation processes in conflict-affected regions

Against this background, projects and measures aimed at improving the environment, making resource use more efficient and fair and promoting environmentally sustainable development should be seen as essential elements of a comprehensive peace policy. The sustainable management of scarce resources, such as water, and the regulation of access to these recources make a major contribution to crisis prevention. Regional and cross-border cooperation on environmental issues can represent a confidence-building measure and promote de-escalation in conflict-affected regions.

In its Civilian Crisis Prevention, Conflict Resolution and Post-conflict Peace-building Action Plan of 2004, the German government set up a national programme of measures for the prevention of environmentally and resource-related conflicts. Reports on the implementation of the Crisis Prevention Action Plan were published by the German government in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2014.

The German Environment Agency (UBA) works towards the reduction of environmentally and resource-related risks to peace mainly through research and specific advisory assistance projects.

Research

In a research project named "Rohstoffkonflikte nachhaltig vermeiden" (to avoid raw material conflicts), which ran from 2010 to 2011, adelphi and the Wuppertal Institute examined how the unequal distribution and scarcity of raw materials can lead to conflicts. In the available project reports, various case studies and scenarios are analysed and proposals are made on how to avoid such conflicts.

In 2007, the Institute for Futures Studies and Technology Assessment IZT in Berlin was commissioned by the German Environment Agency to investigate, based on the example of coltan extraction in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to what degree the demand for rare metals can escalate armed conflict, and proposed conflict prevention approaches.

Advisory assistance

Under the Advisory Assistance Programme (AAP) the German Environment Agency is supporting various projects to improve the environmental situation and, thereby, living conditions in the regions covered by the programme. In a broader sense, this can enhance the livelihood of population in the regions concerned and thus contribute to peacekeeping. The programme also supports policy exchange with Germany and thus deepens stability-boosting bilateral cooperation.