Highlight 8/2023 – Nature-based Solutions (NbS) to Peace and Security: Approaches, Tools, and Examples
Ilhyung Lim, Imed Methnani and Wendegoudi J. Ouédraogo, 9 February 2023
Keywords: Nature-based Solutions (NbS), Nature, Peacebuilding, Inter-sectoral approach, Global challenges
Conceptualizing Nature-based Solutions
In 2021, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published the first synthesis report: “Making Peace With Nature”. The analysis of the text is anchored in current circumstances of economic, societal and ecological reality. Indeed, the international community has been facing multilayered crises such as climate change, nature loss and pollution (UN News).
In this context, this article attempts to illustrate the approaches, tools, and examples regarding the role and scope of Nature-based Solutions (NbS). It focuses on identifying how NbS can provide an opportunity to address urgent challenges related to interconnection between nature conservation and peacebuilding. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), NbS may be defined as “actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”. Based on this definition, we can identify a set of approaches, tools, and examples of NbS. It is a useful tool to address global challenges, facilitating the engagement of cross-sectoral stakeholders.
The Nexus between NbS and Peace and Security
Since conflicts have a huge impact on the environment which tends to be a vicious circle of environmental destruction-conflict, it is important to find solutions to maintain peace and security for sustainable development. “Conflict pollution, land degradation, over-exploitation of natural resources, and weak environmental governance have direct and long-term consequences for communities and directly impact climate resilience capacities.”(Zwijnenburg, 2021)
It goes without saying that all warring parties and international communities are responsible for taking measures to protect nature during all phases of conflicts. Nature-based solutions lay naturally at the core of ‘Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’. The International Law Commission’s Draft Principles and the International Committee of the Red Cross’ updated Military Guidelines on environmental protection in conflict constitute a step in creating a legal process, but a clear framework to manage international efforts for clean-up, remediation, and restoration of conflict-caused environmental damage is still needed.
Categorizing the NbS tools and approaches
The following are tools set in place with the objective to mitigate the impact of conflicts on the environment:
• The Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR), which is a global alliance of 22 international organizations, academic institutions, and NGOs;
• Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030;
• UNFCCC Paris COP 12 agreement features ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation and risk reduction;
• Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), COP 12 and 13 (Decisions XII/20; XIII/4) both mention ecosystem-based approaches. The CBD is now in the process of developing technical guidelines on Eco-DRR and adaptation;
• Ramsar Decision XII/13 regards the importance of wetlands to reducing disaster risk;
• The First World Forum on Ecosystem Governance, and its declaration which also features Eco-DRR.
An Example: Nigeria NbS for conflict resolution
The civil conflict in Nigeria, which has economic, ethnic, and religious roots (opposing Muslim Fulani herders and non-Fulani Christian farmers), has exacerbated in recent years causing more than 3,641 deaths from 2016 to 2018 and costing an annual loss of almost US$14 billion. There are two major reasons for this: the overlapping interests and unequal access to land resources, and climate change.
In fact, deteriorating environmental conditions, desertification and soil degradation have led Fulani herdsmen from Northern Nigeria to change their transhumance routes to have access to pastureland and watering points in the Middle Belt and thus, eventually clash with farmers along the way. Since the federal state policies fell short of national and regional expectations for a sustainable solution to this societal fissure, a bunch of measures have been formulated.
Furthermore, governors of Southern states in Nigeria have decided to impose a ban on open grazing; a decision that is expected to be generalized to the northern federal states of Nigeria. Federal authorities are also currently considering the following measures to carry out sustainable NbS to the conflict that would be as effective and accepted by both herders and farmers if traditional leaders of the different regions are involved:
• confinement of cattle rearing to ranches;
• creation and leasing of ranches to herders as a mark of non-ownership of land to address the fear of land usurpation;
Nature based solutions appear to be the most adapted tool for sustainable peace and security but lacks sufficient political commitment and resources to their outreach. We call on global, regional, national and local leaders to stand up and strongly commit to preserve the environment in the context of conflicts because of the negative impact conflicts have on the environment and the connectivity between both. Prevention and control of conflicts is much better for our common future. To this end, we need strong political engagement to Nbs that is one key to the attainment of sustainable development goals especially those related to poverty, hunger, and environment.
Ilhyung Lim, Imed Methnani and Wendegoudi J. Ouédraogo, Highlight 8/2023 – Nature-based Solutions (NbS) to Peace and Security: Approaches, Tools, and Examples, 9 February 2023, available at www.meig.ch
The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the authors and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.