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UN warns peacekeepers on environmental damage

by David Masters
March 23, 2009
Sustainability Environment

UN peacekeepers and aid workers have been told to minimise their environmental impact or risk exacerbating the problems they’re trying to solve.

The United Nations urged its blue helmet peacekeepers and aid agencies to adopt a green approach to their work after studies found that peacekeeping forces use significant levels of vital resources such as water and wood.

Better planning and management would help to curb waste and promote energy and water efficiency, the UN said.

Deforestation could also be minimised by planning the resources needed and by using alternative construction techniques.

Studies also found that in vulnerable environments the demand for critical natural resources can be so high that over-use of these resources by peacekeepers can aggravate conflict.

Achim Steiner, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) executive director, said: “The primary role of international peacekeeping forces and aid agencies is to keep the peace and support vulnerable communities during difficult and distressing times.

“They also have the responsibility to ensure that their presence and operations have a minimal ecological footprint and do not aggravate environmental degradation, which may be a dimension of the conflict.

“Momentum is now building to find ways of protecting the environment and the long-term livelihoods of affected communities.”

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