Environmental Diplomacy

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ATHENS, Ohio — Environmental diplomacy is gaining influence in international relations and humanitarian relief. Environmental diplomacy addresses issues and actions related to environmental security, and involves a wide range of actors. The environment is borderless and the issues continue to be addressed at a multilateral level.

The United Nations Environment Programme, or UNEP, and Environment and Security Initiative, or ENVSEC, have a good groundwork for combating environmental issues such as multilateral engagement with organizations like the United Nations Development Programme, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and even the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The ENVSEC has worked on over 150 million products, utilizing projects and maps for their work. Environmental diplomacy is vital to security and post-conflict resolution, as 40 percent of internal conflicts are related to natural resources and environmental issues such as food and water security, land ownership, population growth and the new scarcity. Environmental issues act as threat multipliers and can affect economic security as well, making trade difficult and disrupting the economy in a conflict-ridden area.

The UNEP strives for transparency and cooperation between nations and organizations, and they advise to incorporate environmental issues into working negotiations rather than treat the environment as a separate issue. An example of how economic and environmental security are related is the case of rare earth minerals, which are components in many of our electronics. Mining and accessing these minerals is extremely destructive to the environment, however, and has been outlawed in Australia and the United States.

The only country that still mines these minerals is China, and this severely affects their air quality. Since China is the only one still mining these minerals, however, other countries are economically dependent. This is an example where economic and environmental security work against each other. UNEP live online is an area where nations can share information, and it offers a transparent tool for participating members to work cooperatively toward environmental security and can act as a catalyst for economic diplomacy as well.

Environmental security can be extremely significant in post-conflict resolution and economic diplomacy. After a conflict, fighters must return home and often find themselves in an economically insecure situation where their land is taken and they are out of work. Cooperative negotiations between economic diplomacy, environmental diplomacy and development are vital.

ENVSEC and International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development provide a good example of how these areas can interact with different actors to combat environmental issues through means of development projects. Environmental diplomacy will not thrive without economic assistance; economic diplomacy will not be sustainable unless it addresses environmental security.

Neti Gupta

Sources: NATO, The Millennium Project
Photo: Flickr

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