Environmentally Sustainable Development and Peace: What Role for International Law?
Published in: C. M. Bailliet and K. M. Larsen (eds.), ‘Promoting Peace through International Law’ (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015)166-188.
24 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2015 Last revised: 16 Sep 2015
Date Written: January 30, 2015
A safe, clean, and productive environment is conducive to peace and human security while environmental stress is both a cause and an effect of political tension and military conflict. The protection and preservation of the natural environment, integrity of ecological systems, and the survival of species are positive conditions for peace.
Yet, the connections between environmental issues and conflict are many and complex. Environmental factors themselves are rarely, if ever, the sole cause of violence. But Natural resources and other environmental factors are linked to violent conflict in a variety of ways often obscured by more visible issues, such as ethnic tension and power politics. Conflicts can arise from the marginalization of sectors of the population and from ensuing violence. This occurs when political processes are unable to handle the effects of environmental stress resulting, for example, from floods, erosion, and desertification. Nations have often fought to assert or resist control over raw materials, energy supplies, land, river basins, sea passages, and other key environmental resources. Such conflicts are likely to increase as these resources become scarcer, the human population becomes larger, and competition for resources increases.
This chapter seeks to explore ways in which cooperation for sustainable Development can contribute to the maintenance of peace in the sense of diminishing potential for conflict. Environmental sustainability and healthy ecosystems should be considered a condition for building peace and environmental protection and cooperation a factor in peacemaking. As a peacemaking tool, the environment offers some useful — perhaps even unique — qualities that lend themselves to building peace and transforming conflict: environmental challenges ignore political boundaries, require a long-term perspective, encourage local and non-governmental participation, and extend community building beyond polarizing economic linkages. Where cooperation does take root, it may help to enhance trust, establish cooperative habits, create shared regional identities around shared resources, and establish mutually recognized rights and expectations. In this context, the present and potential role of public international law will be assessed. In particular, the international climate regime as an international agreement that purports sustainable resource use, conservation of ecosystems, sustainable management of commodities and cooperation in the management of a shared resource will be analysed for its potential to ‘contribute to peace’.
Keywords: sustainable deevlopment, climate change, peace building, cooperation
JEL Classification: K33, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation