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Environmental Peacebuilding Association Launched to Improve Learning and Action on Environment, Conflict, and Peace

April 2018

(Washington, DC) – The Environmental Law Institute (ELI), UN Environment, and partner institutions are pleased to announce the launch of the Environmental Peacebuilding Association. Launched today, Earth Day, the Association provides a multidisciplinary forum to address issues related to environment, conflict, and peace.

In recent decades, there has been growing awareness of the linkages between environment, conflict, and peace.  The well-documented “resource curse” shows how the abundance of oil, minerals, and other natural wealth can foster conditions of poor governance that lead to war. There is growing evidence that climate change is both a threat multiplier and a conflict accelerant. With the Viet Nam War, the 1990-91 Gulf War, and Colombia’s civil war, we saw how environment can be both a weapon of war and a casualty.  The late 1990s and the early 2000s, saw the rise of conflict diamonds, conflict timber, and other natural resources whose revenues helped finance armed conflict.  Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, more than 35 major armed conflicts were financed in part by natural resources (including those in DR Congo, Liberia, Colombia, and Myanmar, among others).  Environment can also be instrumental to peace. A growing number of peace agreements address land, water, minerals, and other natural resources. And natural resources and the environment are essential to post-conflict recovery in Colombia, Timor-Leste, Liberia, and elsewhere.

“For too long, the linkages between environment, conflict, and peace were isolated areas of research,” observes Carl Bruch, President of the Association (and Director of International Programs at ELI). “Environmental peacebuilding provides an overarching framework for understanding these linkages across time, space, and resources.”

The Association has three main aims, notes Richard Matthew, Vice-President of the Association. “First, it seeks to identify promising research avenues and best policy practices, as well as foster knowledge and data exchange. Second, it builds capacity and awareness among practitioners. Third, it fosters interactions among scholars, practitioners, decision makers, and others across disciplines, genders, geographical locations, and stages of professional development.”

“UN Environment is extremely pleased to see that our long standing work on environmental peacebuilding has finally culminated in this new association,” said David Jensen, Head of Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding for UN Environment, and a Board Member of the Association. “This will be a critical network of practitioners that will help the world understand how to make natural resources a reason for peace rather than a source of conflict.” 

“A hallmark activity of the Association will be a series of workshops and conference to foster exchange of knowledge, strengthen the community, and catalyze further development of the field,” observes Erika Weinthal, Vice-President of the Association.

The founding Board of Directors consists of 11 prominent members in the environmental peacebuilding community: Carl Bruch (President) of the Environmental Law Institute; Erika Weinthal (Vice-President) of Duke University; Richard Matthew (Vice-President) of the University of California Irvine; Päivi Lujala (Treasurer) of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Philippe Le Billon of the University of British Columbia; Geoff Dabelko of Ohio University; Anne Hammill of the International Institute for Sustainable Development; David Jensen of UN Environment; Katie Peters of the Overseas Development Institute; Britta Sjöstedt of Lund University; and Janani Vivekananda of adelphi.

Geoff Dabelko notes that “The Environmental Peacebuilding Association provides a needed hub for environmental peacebuilding scholars and practitioners to come together and share new research and practical insights from the field.”

The Association formalizes a series of ad hoc collaborations, which will be consolidated under the framework of the new Association. These include the development of an Environmental Peacebuilding Knowledge Platform (www.environmentalpeacebuilding.org) by ELI and UNEP, the cultivation of an Environmental Peacebuilding Community of Practice with 3,200 people in more than 100 countries, the biweekly Environmental Peacebuilding Update, the annual Al Moumin Award and Distinguished Lecture in Environmental Peacebuilding, and an ongoing massive open online course on Environmental Security & Sustaining Peace (with almost 10,000 people from 150 countries enrolled).

More information on the Environmental Peacebuilding Association is available at www.environmentalpeacebuilding.org.

More information on membership is available at www.environmentalpeacebuilding.org/membership/.