Environmental Law Institute
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Environmental Law Institute
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Growth (1 hits),

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Environmental Emergencies

Environmental emergencies are increasing in both severity and frequency, and are an emerging issue for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (?Rio+20?). In this context, the Environmental Law Institute proposes the following points for consideration in the Zero Draft Compilation Document:

Environmental emergencies cause substantial harm to human life and national economies, and developing and operationalizing international frameworks for environmental emergency response and preparedness is a priority.

The impacts of environmental emergencies on human health and national economies extends beyond the tally of lives lost and property damaged. Disasters frequently destroy critical infrastructure, such as a ports or power plants, or release toxins that cause persistent health problems and can burden a country for years or decades to come. Minimizing these impacts is critical to preserving human health and welfare and safeguarding national economies. Therefore, it is imperative that government agencies and other actors at all levels recognize the threat posed by environmental emergencies and take measures to prevent, minimize, and respond to them.

The international framework for environmental emergency response and preparedness needs to be strengthened to account for the increasing frequency, greater damage, and changing geographic distribution of environmental emergencies, particularly in light of climate change and urbanization.

As environmental emergencies increase in scope and severity?especially due to climate change and urbanization?the likelihood that they will overwhelm a nation?s capacity to respond is amplified. As such, the international framework addressing disasters needs to be strengthened. Currently, the frameworks result in gaps and overlaps in aid which negatively impact and decrease efficiency of response efforts. Greater coordination and sharing of information, expertise, and resources will strengthen the international preparedness and response frameworks to ensure more effective international assistance.

Climate change and urbanization will influence the changing vulnerabilities of communities and countries around the world. They also present new opportunities for improving response and preparedness as increased attention is paid to environmental emergencies. Failure to address the changing needs in environmental emergency response and preparedness could result in more costly outcomes. The international community needs to anticipate these changes and develop a global framework that meets these challenges.

The international community needs to build capacity of local responders, particularly in large cities, and integrate local response with national, regional, and international response systems.

Coordination between different levels of response improves the effective and efficient use of resources for assistance. Local responders often know the area and the people most affected, and are the first on the scene. In order to optimize international assistance, local responders need to possess the tools and knowledge necessary to request national or international support (taking into account the need prerogative of national authorities for managing international relations). Likewise, international responders would benefit from earlier notification and more clear direction to minimize aid overlap. Measures that facilitate greater communication and integration are needed to improve coordination and effectiveness.

Natural Resources and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

Since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, post-conflict peacebuilding has emerged grown rapidly, with experiences in many countries. Natural resources are essential to post-conflict economic development, stabilization of security, social equity, and good governance. The actions that are taken ? or not taken ? in post-conflict peacebuilding substantially affect whether a country successfully transitions to a path of sustainable development or it relapses into conflict.

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) submits the following comments for consideration in the Zero Draft Compilation Document for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (?Rio+20?). These comments might best fit within the ?Emerging Issues? discussion, but could also be relevant to ?International Governance for Sustainable Development.?

War is inherently damaging to sustainable development, and many post-conflict countries struggle with the transition from conflict to sustainable development; post-conflict peacebuilding seeks to lay a foundation for durable peace and sustainable development.

? Since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit?and the end of the Cold War?there has been a rapid Growth in post-conflict peacebuilding. Efforts to help countries to recover from war have had been uneven, and the risk of relapse into conflict is significant. In the 2011 World Development Report, the World Bank noted that ?every civil war that began since 2003 was a resumption of a previous civil war.? Moreover, natural resource-linked conflicts are more likely to relapse into violence than other conflicts, and do so twice as quickly.

? Conflicts are often linked to natural resources. Natural resources may be one of the root causes of the conflict. The extraction and trade in natural resources often finance conflict. Since 1990, natural resources have fuelled conflict in at least 18 countries. Scorched earth tactics, land mines, and other military strategies often target natural resources during conflict.

? The international community is devoting increasing attention to the emerging issue of how to design and implement peacebuilding initiatives to more effectively support the transition to sustainable development and prevent relapses to conflict.

? From the outset, peacebuilding requires a long-term view that integrates economic, social, and environmental dimensions. Such a holistic approach is needed to avoid exacerbating existing tensions or creating new, unintended consequences that could undermine the transition to a durable peace. Effective management of natural resources is essential to post-conflict peacebuilding because post-conflict societies rely on natural resources for food security, livelihoods, economic development, basic services, and other peacebuilding objectives.

? Natural resources can be important to almost every aspect of post-conflict peacebuilding.

? To establish security in post-conflict situations it is imperative to secure the trade in conflict-linked natural resources. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) can use natural resources to provide a source of civilian livelihoods for former combatants (particularly as farmers, but also in other resource-dependent sectors).

? The livelihoods and food security of many post-conflict situations are tied to the sustainable management of natural resources because a majority of the population often works in agriculture, forestry, fishing, artisanal mining and related fields.

? The economic development of post-conflict countries may also depend substantially on the extraction and processing of natural resources, such as timber, oil and gas, minerals and cash crops.

? Natural resources are essential to providing basic services such as drinking water, hydropower, and inland water transport.

? Governance and the rule of law can be supported through shared management of natural resources using inclusive political processes in local, national, and regional resource management institutions. The planning and implementation of post-conflict peacebuilding have often failed to adequately address natural resources, which has undermined the effectiveness of peacebuilding.

? There have been many experiences, largely ad hoc, from which we can learn to improve the effectiveness of peacebuilding initiatives.

? Many of these experiences have been analyzed by a global initiative led by the Environmental Law Institute, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the University of Tokyo and McGill University. This project assesses more than 150 case studies of peacebuilding initiatives from around the world, authored by 230 researchers and practitioners in 50 countries, and it disseminates the findings in a six volume series of books. While individual peacebuilding experiences have been successful, the bulk of the case studies point to the need for approaches that better integrate natural resources.

To strengthen the effectiveness of post-conflict peacebuilding, institutional and operational approaches need to be developed and implemented to mainstream natural resource management into peacebuilding efforts.

? The institutional and operational approaches suggested herein would improve institutional learning, build capacity, mobilize expertise to provide technical assistance, consider natural resources in the assessments of specific post-conflict situations, and increase coordination around natural resources.

? Learning?More systematic approaches are needed to collect, analyze, and disseminate information on managing natural resources to support peacebuilding on an ongoing basis.

? Capacity building?To operationalize lessons learned on managing natural resources in post-conflict settings, it is necessary to build the capacity of post-conflict countries and the bilateral, multilateral, and nongovernmental organizations that support them. This would include staff trainings, workshops for partner organizations, operational guidance on both strategic and project levels, templates for contracting guidelines, monitoring and evaluation strategies tailored to natural resource management in post-conflict settings, and checklists for conflict-sensitive natural resource management.

? Mobilizing expertise for technical assistance?Searchable rosters of experts and pools of experts on call could help to mobilize the expertise necessary to provide post-conflict technical assistance on a range of natural resource-related issues. These experts may include both in-house staff and external experts.

? Considering natural resources when assessing specific post-conflict situations?For each post-conflict situation, careful analysis is needed to identify whether and how specific natural resources should be integrated into peacebuilding strategies. This analysis should identify conflict-linked natural resources and address them in the peacebuilding strategy. Planning processes should consider which natural resources can support the security, economic, social, and governance needs of the specific post-conflict situation. Natural resources that could constrain proposed peacebuilding activities must be evaluated before peacebuilding activities are initiated.

? Coordination?Natural resources can provide as-yet underutilized opportunities for coordination around a resource. Although coordination among local, national, and international actors is essential to effective and efficient peacebuilding, there has been very little coordination to date, particularly at the operational level.

Programs and projects should coordinate through donor conferences, during program or project design, and throughout the implementation process. Evaluations of programs and projects should consider whether there has been effective coordination with the other initiatives and communities that rely on or affect the same resource.

A publicly available database of projects and the natural resource or resources relied upon or affected would allow post-conflict countries, donors, and other actors to more readily identify with which groups they should coordinate.
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