by Karin Kortmann, Parliamentary State Secretary, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany
In 2004, Wangari Maathai became the first environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee thus sent an important signal, sensitizing the global public to the link between peace and environment. Maathai succinctly described that link in her Nobel Lecture delivered in Oslo on 10 December 2004: "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. This shift is an idea whose time has come." The past few weeks of intensive debate have shown to everyone that climate change is not just a matter of a few degrees centigrade more or less. Protecting the environment, and that includes containing climate change, is one of the most essential prerequisites for development and peace worldwide.
"This shift is an idea whose time has come," Wangari Maathai said. With our conference, we want to help ensure that this shift in our way of thinking is translated into policy. Today and tomorrow, we want to succeed in getting together different players from the fields of politics, academia, and civil society; putting our heads together to think about the environment, security, peace, and development in a holistic way; and linking together activities in all of these areas, combining them into harmonized sets of measures.
Relationship between development, environment and conflict
Environmental change, development processes and conflict dynamics have major mutual impacts – positive impacts and, sadly, far too often, negative impacts as well.
It is still too often that dynamic economic development takes place at the expense of the environment. A great deal of our own prosperity has been achieved through ruthless exploitation of natural resources. We are currently witnessing history repeating in the emerging economies, above all China and India, which are increasingly confronted with environmental problems. If resource use is too intensive, it can cause environmental damage that destroys people's livelihoods in the long term, resulting in poverty and in conflict over increasingly scarce resources.
Armed conflict causes severe and lasting damage to the environment, thus making post-conflict reconstruction more difficult. […] Armed conflict poses the greatest impediment to development because it often destroys what had been achieved through many years of hard work. […]
The role of development policy
Security means averting threats. As a development policymaker, I define security not only in military terms. We rely on an extended concept of security which also takes account of the political, economic and ecological dimensions of security. Security is more than the absence of war. Security also means that people are protected from hunger, life-threatening diseases, and environmental disasters. This is why development policymakers have a special contribution to make at the intersection of environment, development, and crisis prevention! Development policy as a global structural and peace policy makes a decisive contribution to ecological and human security.
We must tackle this challenge, because
1) The developing countries are not the main contributors to climate change, but they are most affected by it. The G8 countries account for 57% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Africa will be most affected by climate change. The continent has already frequently hit the headlines because of drought and flooding. […]
2) The impact of climate change exacerbates typical development problems, resulting in a particularly explosive constellation: Logging, land degradation, massive population growth and, on top of that, the consequences of climate change are resulting in increasing scarcity of natural resources. This is a vicious circle from which the developing countries cannot break free on their own. They lack the specialists and financial resources to do so. Corruption and poor governance are making the job even more difficult. This is resulting in social and political conflict (such as the conflicts in Sudan and Rwanda), displacement and migration. […]
3) Development cooperation will increasingly be taking place in a setting characterized by environmental problems and conflict. This will make our job more difficult and present us with new requirements to which we must respond. […]
Development policy approaches and examples
Our activities must be combined at three levels:
1. At the international level, we need regulatory instruments to contain climate change and to ban trade in conflict resources from developing countries.
2. In our cooperation with partner countries, we need to develop adaptation strategies and options for conflict resolution. Structural causes of violence need to be reduced, and mechanisms for nonviolent conflict transformation, fostered.
3. In Europe and Germany, too, we need to integrate the policy fields of environment, development and conflict management more closely, and we need to develop more responses that are based on a multi-sector, whole-of-government approach. Coherence between our national policies and between EU policies is a crucial prerequisite for successful development policies.
There are numerous examples of successful approaches:
1) Conflict resources: EITI, FLEGT and Kimberley processes
I would like to highlight the example of resources which continually fuel conflict and help to sustain conflict through the emergence of economies of violence. We in the industrialized countries share the blame for the instability and violence caused by such conflict, because it is their access to global sales markets and arms markets that enables the parties in the conflict to make a profit from their resources and to finance their operations in this way. So there is an urgent need for players to shoulder responsibility for ensuring that such resources are extracted in a manner that is environmentally and socially sound and sensitive to conflict. Promising examples of relevant initiatives include EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative), the FLEGT process (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade), and the Kimberley process. […]
2) Regional cooperation: Nile Basin Initiative
Air and water have no boundaries. Natural geographic regions and river basins do not take account of issues of sovereignty. So resource management, too, must transcend national borders! There are numerous examples of transboundary environmental cooperation which illustrate the potential for conflict prevention and peace stabilization inherent in activities related to the environment: Take the Nile Basin Initiative. The potential for conflict along the Nile is great, as people's livelihoods in the riparian countries depend on access to Nile water. The riparian countries are pursuing the initiative in order to attain sustainable socioeconomic development by using the water of the Nile basin in an equitable manner. […]
For the complete article by Ms Kortmann, based on the opening speech held at the Conference on Integrating Environment, Development, and Conflict Prevention in Press and Information Office of the Federal Government, Berlin, 29th of March, please visit http://www.adelphi-consult.com/ECC2007/Downloads/Kortmann_Session_I_Day_1.pdf
For more information about the conference, please see the report below.
Published in: ECC-Newsletter, April 2007