Institute for Environmental Security
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MEAs, Conservation and Conflict
Virunga National Park (Parc National des Virunga, PNVi), in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is Africa?s oldest and most diverse park. Stretching along the Congolese border with Uganda and Rwanda, PNVi has more bird, mammal and reptile species than any other on the continent. But for the past two decades, the park and the surrounding area in North Kivu province have experienced near-constant violent conflict. For the local population, the result has been widespread suffering: death, rape, displacement, sickness and starvation.
Beyond the humanitarian crisis, conflict has threatened the species, habitats and communities that depend on PNVi for their survival. The park is in crisis: its governance systems have collapsed; its boundaries are encroached upon by the surrounding local and refugee populations; its habitats are being destroyed by overfishing and charcoal production; and its animals are killed for meat and ivory.
Conflict has significantly contributed to the fact that the United Nation?s environmental conventions are not able to achieve their stated objectives in the park. Multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), designed to protect such globally-significant ecosystems, have thus far been unable to address the threats to the park. Despite the proliferation of relevant environmental conventions and the DRC?s participation in them, environmental destruction continues in PNVi.
Using PNVi and the Great Lakes conflicts as a case study, this paper analyzes where entry points exist for policy-makers and conservationists to use five existing international environmental agreements to better protect biodiversity and ecosystems in times of conflict: UNESCO WHC, CBD, CMS, CITES and Ramsar. While not an exhaustive study, the paper identifies some of the shortcomings of existing agreements, where entry points might exist and what other international policy instruments and fora could be used to help protect important ecosystems like PNVi.
The UN MEAs are not designed or expected to offer practical solutions to conservation crises on the ground; it is up to the national governments of the signatory states, and their conservation authority, to enforce and achieve Convention goals. Their sovereignty must be respected by the other parties. However the MEAs, their COPs and their Secretariats can help them do so by building capacity, improving information gathering (i.e., the IPCC model) and supporting underfunded budgets. This analysis reveals a number of specific opportunities for elevating environment-conflict issues to international policy levels to help save important ecosystems in times of conflict.
Publication website ( PDF - www.iisd.org )
|Author(s)||Crawford, A. and J. Bernstein|
|Publisher||International Institute for Sustainable Development|
|Place published||Winnipeg, Canada|
|Date / Journal Vol No.||October 2008|