Peace Day 2009: "A more peaceful, better and greener tomorrow"
KABUL - As Peace Day 21 September approaches UNAMA is featuring articles from UN agencies on the work the UN is doing for peace in Afghanistan. 8: UN Environment Programme
Since 2002, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has been working with its Afghan and international partners to lay the foundations for sustainable and peaceful development in Afghanistan.
Conflicts in the 21st century are focused increasingly on access to natural resources. Fresh water, forests and land are in limited supply; and their loss or degradation seriously threatens humankind’s survival.
Afghanistan is no different – research has shown that a high percentage of local-level conflicts are triggered by disputes regarding ownership of and access to natural resources, especially land, water and rangeland.
Bearing in mind the country’s susceptibility to drought and other natural disasters, and the arid nature of much of the country, Afghanistan is also highly vulnerable to desertification and to the impacts of climate change, which are likely to fuel the ongoing conflict and new conflicts in years to come.
With this background in mind, UNEP is working with the Government to develop the regulatory and policy frameworks required to address conflicts regarding access to natural resources.
The new draft Rangeland and Forest Laws, which are at various stages in the legislative pipeline, lay out the new paradigms for community-based management of these resources, including the resolution of access disputes according to traditional mechanisms.
UNEP has also worked with the Ministry of Agriculture to develop a strategy for the resolution of conflicts regarding access to summer rangelands in the Central Highlands which has been a source of armed conflict for a number of years, especially in the Behsud district of Wardak province.
Furthermore, UNEP is working with the Government to pilot climate-change adaptation approaches so as to cushion the heavy blow that climate change will wield in due course.
Traditionally, the Government has been seen by communities as an adversary rather than a partner in matters of natural resource management. However, given the new regulatory and policy approaches, a spirit of cooperation and trust is being fostered at the local level, and contributing towards peace-building at the community level, and encouraging respect for the rule of law and increased confidence in the Government.
These positive developments have been observed by UNEP in the implementation of its diverse range of field-level community-based natural resources management projects. These are aimed both at improving rural livelihoods and restoring the ecological base that sustains these livelihoods – it is UNEP’s experience that increased economic productivity results in communities focusing more on development and less on conflict.
The conservation of nature in protected areas is another sector where UNEP’s work for peace is apparent. Protecting the natural resource base which underpins human settlement on the earth’s surface – through whole ecosystem conservation, in watersheds, wetland systems, flora and fauna – leads to healthier, stronger environments and better livelihoods for the people living there.
UNEP provides training and technical support in environmental impact assessment and pollution control. This provides a cleaner and safer environment for citizens, and will eventually decrease tensions in the living environment.
Similarly, UNEP’s environmental-awareness raising and outreach programme is a key peace-building tool especially in regard to natural resource management.
In 2009, UNEP is working with MACCA and UNAMA to develop outdoor, nature and recreational activities for the days preceding and on Peace Day. This year’s activities will focus on Bamiyan and Kabul.
These initiatives will help build peace in Afghanistan, strengthening support, understanding and cooperation for a more peaceful, better and greener tomorrow.
By Belinda Bowling, UNEP Afghanistan