A new training programme to support the UN's 16 peace operations in improving their management of the environment and natural resources has been launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today.
The launch marks the 20th anniversary of International Peace Day, which is being commemorated this year under the theme 'Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future'.
The e-learning course, which is expected to be delivered to thousands of military, police and civilian peacekeeping troops over the next year, follows UNEP's Greening the Blue Helmets report, released earlier this year. The report analyzed how peacekeeping missions around the world affect, and are affected by, natural resources and the broader environment. The study found there was a considerable opportunity to improve sustainability measures in all missions.
While UN peacekeeping operations play a key role in the recovery and stability of countries emerging from conflict, they have a large environmental footprint and can place considerable demands on local resources in fragile environments.
"The Blue Helmets carry out demanding work, in difficult situations, where clean water, forests, and other key resources are often already under pressure. This training programme is a critical step towards making peacekeeping operations more sustainable and effective," said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director.
"Such greening measures can serve to reduce conflict, and to make an important contribution to global efforts to improve resource efficiency and meet the challenges of climate change", added Mr. Steiner.
The course - compiled with the technical assistance of the United Nations Institute for Training & Research (UNITAR) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) - demonstrates the benefits of addressing the environment and natural resources in peacekeeping, and how UN peacekeeping policies and mandates affect the environment and natural resources.
The initiative aims to establish the UN as a role model for sustainable practices.
A number of current peacekeeping missions have independently adopted environmental policies and undertaken a range of measures to improve resource efficiency.
The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has introduced several environmental practices, ranging from the use of electric cars at the mission's headquarters in Naqoura, to energy-efficient power generation and the establishment of a community-led recycling plant.
Simple changes such as switching off equipment or adjusting room temperature settings have resulted in a 15 percent reduction of energy consumption at the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). In the context of annual fuel expenditure of US$638 million across all missions in 2009, this reduction represents a potential annual saving of US$95.7 million.
Other missions have implemented measures focusing on water, waste, energy, transport and building materials.
The new training programme aims to disseminate these good practices to all missions and to encourage investments in new technologies, practices and behaviours that can reduce the overall environmental footprint of peacekeeping.