The two-day conference “The Nature of Peace: Exploring links between the natural environment and peacebuilding in post-conflict societies” recently took place in Lund.
“This conference was organized as a final event in which the interdisciplinary research group ‘The Nature of Peace’ presented its findings after eight months of conducting research activities at the Pufendorf Institute for Advance Studies at Lund University, Sweden,” said Dr. Alejandro Fuentes, Senior Researcher at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute.
The research group focused on the role of the natural environment in post-conflict societies, posing many questinos: What role does nature have in peace building? How is the natural environment considered in fragile states that need to develop quickly, during reconstruction period? Does peace always bring sustainable development together with better protection of the natural environments? How to resolve potential conflicts that could emerge between respecting human rights in peace-building processes and guarantee effective and sustainable environmental protection?
“Providing grounded answers to these questions is of vital importance not only in order to safeguard and guarantee the sustainable use and protection of natural resources in post-conflict scenarios, but also –and even most importantly– to make sure that human rights are protected and respected throughout the process, in particular in connection with local populations in situation of vulnerability,” says Fuentes.
The day started with a keynote speech made by Carl Bruch, senior attorney and co-director of International Programs at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington DC. He spoke about how the environment is both harmed by war and how it can drive war. His main focus was on framing environmental peacebuilding. “You can’t make peace and keep it, you have to build on it,” he said.
Natural Resource Exploitation
Saeed Bagheri, a Max Weber post-doctoral fellow in the law department at the EUI, spoke first about the peace-building role of the natural/energy resource management in post-Islamic state Iraq. Bagheri called the terrorist group Isis the major problem of today’s century. He said they had taken over oil and energy resources to do business with other governments and fund their operations.
Bridget Storrie, a PhD candidate with the Institute of Global Prosperity at University College London, talked about developing a place-based approach to building peace in post-conflict mining contexts. She used three case studies, speaking mostly about Kosovo. She argued that “peacebuilding is conceptualized as avoiding future conflict” and that there should be a “peacebuilding from below approach.”
The last speaker for the first seminar was Andrés Gomez, Project assistant at Uppsala University. He spoke about a hydroelectric project in Colombia as a way to build peace. “Peacebuilding is sometimes about interlocking industry that wouldn’t work with each other otherwise,” he said.
Environmental Legislation/Nature Governance
Angela Maria Amaya Aria, researcher and professor of environmental law at Universidad Externado de Colombia, presented community foresting as a proposal for environmental peacebuilding in Colombia with her five key ideas. “Peace, development and environmental protection are independent and indivisible,” she said.
Alejandro Valderrama, an independent researcher at National University of Ireland Maynooth, talked about the role of reparation and reintegration of ex-combatants from FARC after the peace agreement. He claimed that Colombia was the second largest country being struck by armed conflicts, first one being Syria.
The last speaker for the second seminar was Maria del Pilar Ramirez Gröbli, an associated postdoc researcher at the Center for Global Studies at the University of Bern. Her subject is on communitarian governance and management of natural resources and peacebuilding in Colombia. She spoke about consultations bringing peoples voices to be heard while they being able to organize themselves with the help of NGOs and local organizations.
Biodiversity Conservation in Post-Conflict Areas
Elaine Hsiao, a PhD candidate from The University of British Columbia, spoke about peace parks, large areas that straddle frontiers between two or more countries. She said she didn’t know about any political movements, philosophies, or ideologies who don’t agree with the peace parks concept as we see them today.
Next out was Richard Milburn, a PhD candidate from War Studies at Kings’ College London, arguing that “war and peace may be bad for conservation.” He talked about how short-term needs and gains are prioritized, often leading to long-term losses.
The last speaker for the first day was Adrian Garside from Kings’ College London, with his subject “Wildlife conservation in a time of war: Lessons from South Sudan.” He spoke about how the peace building based approach failed in South Sudan’s case.
The second day started with a keynote speech by Päivi Lujala, professor at Norweigan University of Science and Technology. “Revenues can be the key for peacebuilding resolutions,” she said. She argued that “high-value natural resources can contribute to armed conflict.”
Nature, Culture and Rights
The first seminar of the day was about nature, culture and rights and featured RWI’s guest researcher Frank Baber. The first speaker was Rebecca Farnum, PhD student at King’s College London, who talked about “how people like to stay in their boxes” and within their “institutional barriers”. By this she meant that individuals are comfortable in their own disciplinary areas without expanding and learning from other disciplines.
Next, Teresa Lappe-Osthege, a PhD student from University of Sheffield, delivered a speech called “Environmental peacebuilding and the immaterial environment: understanding territorial conflicts through environmental sense making.” She also used Kosovo as a case study and said “Conflicts happen because of people, not territory or land.”
Next, Seán Brennan, a PhD researcher at Queen’s University Belfast, presented his topic “Growing peace naturally in a toxic post-ceasefire environment: making peace with people, place and planet in Northern Ireland.”.
The fourth speaker was Frank Baber who said about how “the right to food is not merely environmental and economic right. […] Humans are no longer mere survivalist,” he said. He stressed the importance of a sustainable environment since “there is no Planet B”.
The next theme of the day was “Local Perspectives” and it was initiated by a keynote speech by Miguel Londoño working at Global Green Growth Institute in Colombia. He talked about the conflict life cycle and argued that natural resources have a close relationship with conflict in Colombia’s case.
The next speaker was Annalet Van Schalkwyk from University of South Africa who spoke about ecological peace-making in South Africa’s case. The last speaker for this topic, Yina Avella talked about the human rights defenders situation in Colombia after the peace agreement.