|Preventing Natural Disasters and Human Conflict: The Value of Maintaining Healthy Marine and Coastal Ecosystems|
|Thursday, 22 March 2012 00:00|
Ibrihim Thiaw, Director of the Division of Environmental Policy Implementation, UNEP
UNEP’s research has shown strong links between disasters, conflicts, and the environment. The economic costs of deforestation, overfishing, and water mismanagement, compounded by weak governance or natural disasters, have triggered internal conflict in many regions.
It is estimated that 40-60% of internal conflicts over the past 60 years have links to access to water, soil, diamonds, and other natural resources.
The predominant geopolitical conflict resolution strategies today are not only reactionary and late, but miscalculated. Only 25% of peace agreements relate to natural resources. Unless the root cause of conflicts is addressed and abated, costly humanitarian and military aid will be not be sufficient over the long term, and there is a high risk of relapse within a few years.
Weakened states may cause regional instability that can sap the military, civilian, and financial resources of developed countries.
The joint UNEP-UNDP Poverty and Environment Initiative supports country-led efforts to mainstream poverty-environment linkages into national development planning and assists government partners to establish the institutions and capacity to secure the natural capital base necessary for immediate job growth that does not sacrifice economically valuable natural services or long-term stability. Many development and finance ministers, who are focused on short-term economic growth, do not believe that ecosystems provide value to their citizens. UNEP has been using the TEEB Report with much success to demonstrate the value healthy ecosystems can provide to the fishing, tourism, and public health sectors.
Through the Global Program of Action (GPA), UNEP is working with U.S. institutions to address the challenges to securing the oceans and coastal resources that provide us with oxygen, food, and livelihoods. GPA's priority areas are Wastewater, Nutrients and Marine Debris.
Green Economy in a Blue World – a UNEP report – argues “that the ecological health and economic productivity of marine and coastal ecosystems, which are currently in decline around the globe, can be boosted by shifting to a more sustainable economic paradigm that taps their natural potential - from generating renewable energy and promoting eco-tourism, to sustainable fisheries and transport.”