A new desk research report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),  at the beginning of the month of May, has lauded United Nations peacekeepers for progress they have chalked in reducing their environmental impact.

The report on a two-year analysis of how peacekeeping missions around the world affect, and are affected by natural resources and the broader environment titled Greening the Blue Helmets: Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations, particularly praises the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), for having made the most progress in introducing environmental practices, with initiatives 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 for plastic bottles, cans and glass.

“The case of UNIFIL illustrates what all our peacekeeping missions are now trying to achieve,” remarked the Acting Head of the Department of Field Support (DFS), Anthony Banbury on the news.

For his part, the Under-Secretary-General and Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Hervé Ladsous, stated; “Greening the Blue is not just our motto, it is also our commitment to ensuring that peacekeepers have a lasting and positive impact in countries where they are deployed”.

To UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, however, addressing the ownership, control and management of natural resources is what is crucial to maintaining security and restoring the economy in post-conflict countries.

“There has been little progress in systematically considering and documenting how natural resources can support, advance or undermine the aims of a peacekeeping mission so this report is the first attempt to understand the links and identify good practices and gaps,” Mr Steiner said.

The report also discusses natural resources as drivers of conflict, and recommends that where diamonds, gold, oil and other resources are factors in a conflict, peacekeeping missions should be given a more systematic mandate to support national authorities in restoring the administration of natural resources, monitoring sanctions and prosecuting violations.

In addition to highlighting the utmost importance of reducing the environmental impact of UN Peacekeeping operations, the new report states that the implementation of good practice in this area also has additional benefits, including increased financial savings for missions, and improved safety and security for local communities as well as UN Peacekeeping staff.

It also notes that through the adoption of a 2009 Environmental Policy, UN Peacekeeping has a robust platform for progress in reducing its environmental impact.

The 16 missions currently led by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and supported by the Department of Field Support (DFS) constitute the largest environmental footprint in the UN system.

‘Greening the Blue Helmets: Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations’ is the result of ongoing collaboration between UNEP, DPKO and DFS, to increase the consideration given to natural resources and environmental issues in UN Peacekeeping efforts and is based on desk research, field visits and consultations with DFS and DPKO, including 10 peacekeeping missions.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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