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Livelihoods Development Critical to Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and Economic Recovery—New Study

April 2015

(WASHINGTON, DC and GENEVA) In the wake of armed conflict, rebuilding livelihoods is critical to peacebuilding and economic redevelopment, according to a new study launched today by the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the University of Tokyo, McGill University, and Tufts University.  

According to the study, entitled Livelihoods, Natural Resources, and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, reestablishing natural resource-based livelihoods following conflict can strengthen food security, provide employment, help reintegrate ex-combatants and other vulnerable groups, and offer opportunities for cooperation between formerly warring groups.

Edited by Helen Young, a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, and Lisa Goldman, a senior attorney at ELI, the book combines the expertise and field experience of practitioners, researchers, civil society advocates, and others active in livelihoods and post-conflict peacebuilding from around the world. The publication includes 18 cases studies on livelihoods in 16 conflict-affected countries and territories in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East. Together, these case studies illustrate a theory of change that underlies post-conflict livelihood interventions based on sustainable natural resource management.

The book examines post-conflict initiatives spanning a broad range of natural resource‒based livelihoods, including agricultural development, land tenure, pastoralism, fisheries and coastal management, forest governance, protected area management and ecotourism, and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR). These case studies illustrate some of the challenges inherent in post-conflict livelihoods programming: how to balance trade-offs, how to prioritize and sequence livelihoods interventions, how to undertake institutional reform, and the advantages and disadvantages of a market-based approach. At the same time, there is no uniform approach that can work in every case. Theoretical approaches must be informed by best practices that are rooted in messy, complex local realities.

“Rebuilding livelihoods in post conflict countries is a critical component of peacebuilding and economic recovery. Where conflict-affected communities rely on natural resources for livelihood security, peacebuilding solutions must address the livelihood needs of poor and vulnerable populations to ensure the sustainable management of these resources in the context of future national development planning and encourage the equitable distribution of development assistance,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“This publication is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the role of livelihoods and natural resources in post-conflict peacebuilding,” noted Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “If we are to build robust and peaceful societies, nothing is more important than creating and sustaining livelihoods.”

From informal community-based institutions to government ministries, from local customs to formal laws and regulations, experiences highlighted in the book illustrate the important role institutions and policies in fostering innovative approaches to managing natural resources in a more sustainable, economically productive manner. The findings also emphasize the critical need for a participatory approach that incorporates the perspectives of a wide range of stakeholders.

  “The case studies provide practical lessons in designing and implementing livelihoods programs in post-conflict countries for national officials, development practitioners, and local community groups,” stated ELI Acting President Scott Schang. “These lessons can help improve livelihoods initiatives going forward.”

 “Where livelihoods are given priority, peacebuilding can promote the sustainable use of natural resources, increase cooperation between opposing groups, provide basic services to the poor and those most in need of resources, create income-generating opportunities for local communities, and enhance both regional security and resilience in the face of recurring shocks and instability,” emphasized co-editor Helen Young.

 Livelihoods, Natural Resources, and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding is the fifth book in a six-volume series addressing the challenges and opportunities of managing natural resources for post-conflict peacebuilding around the world.

 Notes to Editors:

  •  The United Nations Environment Program (www.unep.org) is the voice for the environment in the United Nations system.
  • The Environmental Law Institute (www.eli.org) is an independent, non-profit research and educational organization based in Washington, DC.

 For further information, please contact Brett Kitchen at +1.202.939.3833 or pressrequest@eli.org.

 For media enquiries, please contact the UNEP Newsdesk in Nairobi, Kenya, at +254.20.762.5022 or unepnewsdesk@unep.org.