Keeping the peace while minding the environment

Wed, 02/03/11

UN Peacekeeping has relaunched its website, which includes details of the approach taken by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support to sustainability.

Currently, UN Peacekeeping Operations account for over half of UN staff as well as more than 50% of the UN's global greenhouse gas emissions. On the new webpages, the Departments acknowledge the potential damage that their camps and operations can have on the environment, as well their impact on local economies and host communities.

The deployment of thousands of civilian, police and military personnel requires a very large amount of logistical support. Often the countries in which peacekeeping personnel operate have very little infrastructure, and large numbers of UN personnel produce waste which - if not treated and disposed properly - can have a negative impact on the local environment.

Peacekeeping missions that are temporary and deployed in remote areas often generate their own power and use aircraft that consume fuel, emit greenhouse gases and possibly cause soil pollution. In some areas - like Darfur or Chad - where water is a scarce resource, the local community may see the UN mission as a resource competitor - something that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Field Support (DFS) are keen to address.

Recognising these challenges, DPKO and DFS have developed a policy to deal with environmental issues, which forms part of the UN Secretary General’s Greening the Blue initiative. The new website outlines their environmental policy, their determination to share best practice as well as the nexus between conflict and natural resources.

Sophie Ravier, who coordinates environmental issues in DFS and DPKO, thinks that getting this right is important to the credibility of the UN, and UN peacekeeping operations in particular:

“It’s critical that we are seen by the local population as part of the solution, and not part of a problem. Minimizing our environmental impact is one important element to achieving this, and is something we take very seriously. We also realise that sound environmental management improves our operational effectiveness.”

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Categories: Staff Engagement