The White Paper on the Future of Environmental Peacebuilding – World


The White Paper on the Future of Environmental Peacebuilding aims to deliver a strong and compelling message about the importance, evidence and promise of environmental peacebuilding to the Stockholm+50 Forum in June 2022.

The term “white paper” is commonly used in government departments to refer to a balanced, publicly available document designed to help readers make decisions. This white paper seeks to encourage debate and discussion about the challenges, opportunities, and potentials for building environmental peace in conflict-affected countries and communities. The paper and abstract are the product of a global conversation about the future of environmental peacebuilding and are drawn from extensive academic work and practical experience.

This white paper is inspired by many voices. Despite its brevity, the white paper hopes to emphasize the growing body of approaches, ideas, and visions for the future of environmental peacebuilding.

The white paper is divided into four parts. The first brings together perspectives on the global context of environmental peacebuilding. The second refers to some of the major challenges to the practice of environmental peacebuilding, while the third part highlights important opportunities for harnessing the environment for peace. The fourth presents an agenda for the future of environmental peacebuilding.

Below, the executive summary is excerpted. Read the entire paper by downloading the PDF file above.

1. The global context of environmental peacebuilding

  • Over the past five decades or so, the many links between the environment and our security have become the focus of political attention and academic research.
  • With the end of the Cold War, some commentators were heralding the hoped-for arrival of a “New World Order”.
  • However, a new global “disruption” soon emerged, prompting urgent research to better understand the root causes of violent conflict.
  • Environmental change and resource mismanagement increase the risk of conflict, particularly in places already torn apart by social and economic inequality, ethnic or ideological divisions.
  • Trade in conflict resources such as illegal timber, blood diamonds, and conflict minerals funds violence and encourages instability.
  • The scale and cascading effects of climate change mean that it is increasingly being recognized as a security issue.
  • Meanwhile, the environmental damage caused by war amplifies the casualties and complicates post-conflict recovery.
  • Civil wars with strong resources or an environmental dimension tend to be more difficult to resolve and more likely to slip back into violence.
  • Environmental issues can provide a platform for dialogue and a reason for cooperation that can help resolve differences between societies.
  • A greater appreciation of the role of environmental degradation, climate change and natural resource management in violent conflict has real implications for peacebuilding policies and practices.

2. Environmental Peacebuilding Challenges

  • While there has been general acceptance at the political level of the intuitive links between the environment and violent conflict, actual work on environmental peacebuilding rarely matches the discourse.
  • Framing environmental issues in terms of their potential to provoke or perpetuate violent conflict can lead to the environment being viewed as a security threat with the risk of serious and unintended consequences.
  • Some analyzes of environmental peacebuilding have been criticized for being conceptually and methodologically sloppy.
  • This may have led to the tendency of environmental peacemakers to underestimate the ability of human societies to adapt to changing situations.
  • Organizations that are active in environmental peacebuilding and that set their agendas show little geographic or sectoral diversity.
  • The field of environmental peacebuilding still tends to view women, indigenous peoples, youth and other marginalized groups as passive targets of assistance rather than as change-makers and knowledge holders in their own right.

3. Environmental Peace Building Opportunities

  • Environmental peacebuilding has risen to prominence as its importance has been documented by a growing body of experience and evidence.
  • Environmental peacebuilders are beginning to acquire the expertise, technology, and data needed to be proactive rather than reactive.
  • New legal processes are changing the landscape for environmental peacebuilding.
  • There is a growing diversity of ideas and actors in the field of environmental peacebuilding.
  • There is a willingness to work together to innovate and learn.
  • If managed carefully, there are ways to constructively engage commercial actors in environmental peacebuilding.
  • The series of landmark events in 2022 presents opportunities to galvanize the environmental peacebuilding movement: to share ideas and accelerate action.

4. Agenda for Environmental Peacebuilding

  • Shifting the mentality of the environmental peacebuilding community towards more inclusiveness and self-awareness.
  • Implement and encourage more community curricula.
  • Advocating for leadership that provides the political space, funding, and entry points needed to build environmental peace.
  • Embedding environmental peacebuilding in policy frameworks at all levels.
  • Push for strong, binding international frameworks to hold states, armed groups, and corporations accountable for environmental damage during conflict.
  • Anticipate and respond to environmental and natural resource tensions before they turn into violent conflict.
  • Continue to build and share the evidence base to build environmental peace.
  • Bridge silos operate in a positive, peaceful and nature-positive manner.

We know that the human race is already in conflict with the natural world – a struggle in which we can only be victims, not victors. Experience shows that it is no longer desirable simply for peacebuilding interventions to incorporate environmental threats; It is now absolutely necessary to mainstream integrated, effective and sustainable environmental peacebuilding policy and practice to ensure lasting peace for the future of our planet.

With often similar root causes—including weak or corrupt institutions, discrimination, inequality, poverty, marginalization, and overexploitation—converging crises of conflict and environmental degradation can reinforce each other, with climate impacts likely to exacerbate one another. The cycle of conflict and the weakening of institutions needed to build resilience.

Building environmental peace can help us ensure a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable future for people and the planet.


White Paper on the Future of Environmental Peacebuilding It is a collaborative project guided by the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, the PeaceNexus Foundation, the Environmental Peacebuilding Association, the Environmental Law Institute, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and was written by our Global Fellowship Initiative co-author, Oli Brown and Giuliana Nicolucci-Altman. It is available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese here:

The opinions, information and opinions expressed in the written publications are the property of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect those shared by the Geneva Center for Security Policy or its employees. GCSP is not responsible and may not always verify the accuracy of the information contained in written publications provided by an author.

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