The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) on Tuesday said that the implementation of good practices in UN peacekeeping operations can increase savings for various missions across the world, and improved safety and security for local communities as well as UN peacekeepers themselves.
The statement was contained in a UNEP report, issued both at the UN Headquarters in New York and Nairobi on Tuesday, which released the findings of a two-year analysis of how UN peacekeeping missions around the world affect, and are affected by, natural resources and the broader environment.
In December 2011, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) had 121,591 personnel deployed across 16 operations, including 15 peacekeeping operations, and one special political mission in Afghanistan.
These personnel and their supporting infrastructure contribute to the recovery and security of countries emerging from conflict, but also place considerable demands on the local environment, including natural resources.
UN CLIMATE FOOTPRINT
"United Nations peacekeeping missions constitute the largest environmental footprint in the UN system," Achim Steiner, UN undersecretary-general, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said in the foreword of the report, entitled "Greening the Blue Helmets: Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations."
In fact, a 2008 inventory conducted by the UN Environment Management Group calculated that peacekeeping operations alone represented more than 56 percent of the UN system's total climate footprint of about 1.75 million tons of CO2 equivalent per year -- about the same size as the climate footprint of the city of London.
"With 25 percent of UN peacekeeping missions since 1948 have had a direct or indirect mandate to address natural resources, the broader surrounding natural resource and environmental management have until now not garnered sufficient attention within the peacekeeping community," Steiner said.
This report shows that peacekeeping operations not only have important natural resource implications, as well as significant impacts on the environment, but also that natural resources are often a fundamental aspect of conflict resolution, livelihoods and confidence-building at the local level.
"It is therefore important that UN peacekeeping missions be given a more systematic mandate to support national authorities in restoring the administration of natural resources like diamonds, gold, oil and timber, in cases where they have fueled or financed violence, or become militarized," he said.