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OSCE Chairmanship workshop discusses confidence-building role of economic and environmental activities

1 June 2011

OSCE Vienna Participants in an OSCE Chairmanship-organized workshop held in Vienna on 30 May discussed the potential of economic and environmental activities to effectively build confidence and trust.

Speakers highlighted the fact that economic and environmental activities can contribute to building confidence and trust between different parties and States, reduce or eliminate possible causes of tension, and play an important role in maintaining and strengthening national and regional security and stability.

The event brought together practitioners, experts, representatives of international and non-governmental organizations, who shared best practices and discussed plans and projects.

Ambassador Renatas Norkus of Lithuania, Chairperson of the OSCE Permanent Council, highlighted the cross-dimensional nature of OSCE efforts: ?Economic and environmental activities and projects designed to build confidence go hand in hand with efforts directed at early warning and prevention of conflicts, mediation and reconciliation across other directions of the OSCE?s work, notably politico-military and human dimensions?.

?One example of the confidence-building potential of economic and environmental activities are projects on river basin co-operation in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, South-Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus, which have promoted constructive dialogue and good neighbourly relations between stakeholders in different countries,? Norkus added.

The OSCE Co-ordinator for Economic and Environmental Activities Goran Svilanović reflected on the examples of good practice in confidence-building in the OSCE?s Economic and Environmental Activities presented by OSCE and international experts in fields such as, fire management in the South Caucasus, as well as water co-operation and the strengthening of civil society. ?We will produce a comprehensive report identifying concrete project ideas that would be implemented in co-ordination with economic and environmental officers from all OSCE field operations and our partners in the Environment and Security (ENVSEC) initiative,? he said.

IES Director, Ron Kingham, presented a background paper on ?Economic and Environmental Confidence- and Peace-building Measures and the Role of the OSCE? and moderated the panel debate on ?Recommendations for OSCE Action?.

Event Page | Background Paper

Minorities and Natural Resources

21 April 2011

Minorities and Natural Resources On 21 April 2011, IES participated in a pre-Earth Day-celebration at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague. The seminar, organized by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the Environment Committee of the ISS, focused on the human rights implications of natural resources exploitation.

Ms. Lisa Thomas of UNPO provided an excellent overview of general problems and potential solutions. She pointed out that minority groups suffer strongly from the exploitation of natural resources, through land and property violations, environmental degradation and human rights violations. She also explained the principle of ?free, prior and informed consent?, which can serve to promote the participation of local populations in resource development, thereby preventing many of these problems.

The plight of disenfranchised groups facing natural resource exploitation was then illustrated through three case studies. First, Dessu Dulla Gashe, representing the Oromo from Ethiopia discussed the problems related to land grabbing in the Oromia region. Here large amounts of land are sold by the federal Ethiopian government to people from outside the region, depriving the Oromo people from fertile land and highly needed economic benefits. Mr. Dessu Dulla Gashe indicated the need to transfer rights and responsibilities to the indigenous Oromo people.

Second, Mr. Than Soe from the Arkana region of Burma spoke about the effects of the enormous Shwe gas project. Recently discovered offshore gas fields, located 75-100 kilometers off the coast, are expected to become the largest source of foreign income for the Burmese military government. Multi-billion dollar deals are struck between the Burmese junta and its main strategic political and economic partner China for the sale and transport of gas.

Ordinary Burmese people, however, are only facing the negative impacts of the gas project: forced labour, land confiscation and seizure of assets have been reported, in addition to great environmental damage and the destruction of fishermen?s livelihoods. Moreover, Mr. Than Soe expressed his concern that the military junta would use the large benefits of the gas deals (about USD 60 billion in 30 years) to enhance its military power in order to strengthen its autocratic and violent oppression of the Burmese population.

At the end of the seminar, the film Poison Fire was screened. This short movie demonstrated the effects of oil spills and gas flaring for people living in the Niger Delta. Despite a court ruling against Shell indicating that gas flaring is an obvious violation of human rights and Nigerian law, and despite many promises by the highest Shell officials to put an end to this unnecessary and highly polluting practice, gas flaring still takes place widely in the Niger Delta.

The movie reminded participants how Shell, by fully disregarding local human rights and the global environmental effects of its operations, proves its unwillingness to take social responsibility. Ironically, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant is making itself a perfect ambassador for campaigns striving for stronger regulation of the corporate sector.

The seminar was a meaningful start of this year?s Earth Day-celebrations and an urgent appeal to actors in the public and private sector to respect the rights of minority groups, not only in Ethiopia, Burma and Nigeria, but all around the world.

Eric van de Giessen, Institute for Environmental Security

Gas projects Burma | UNPO | Poison Fire | Clean the Niger Delta

UN-EU Partnership on Natural Resources, Conflict and Peacebuilding

22 November 2010

UN-EU Partnership Together with the European Union and five other UN partners ? UNDP, DPA, UNEP, PBSO, HABITAT and DESA ? UNEP is working to support countries improve natural resource management for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Through a joint programme coordinated by the UN Framework Team for Preventive Action and financed by the EU's Instrument for Stability, technical assistance will be provided to help national stakeholders, as well as UN and EU staff in conflict-affected countries, to better understand and prevent tensions over environmental issues and the management of natural resources. The partnership is also designed to enhance policy development and programme coordination between key actors at the field level.

More about the UN Framework Team

Experts on Environmental Security in a t?te-?-t?te

ENVSEC-IES Workshop on Environmental Security Assessments
22 November 2010

ESAM Workshop On 21-22 November 2010 the Institute for Environmental Security, in collaboration with UNEP and ENVSEC, organised a workshop on 'Environmental Security Assessments: Methodologies and Practices' at Chateau de Bois-Seigneur-Isaac near Brussels.

The meeting brought together experts who design and carry out Environmental Security Assessments (ESAs) and policy makers and practitioners with a demonstrated interest in using such assessments. The overall aim was to exchange information and experiences on the various approaches to conducting ESAs and explore ways to improve the use of them in the future.

The first theme addressed was ?What are ESAs? How are they done? And who uses them?? Speakers highlighted purposes of different kinds of ESAs and how they are used by policy makers, by companies, by development agencies and by the defence and security communities. Referring to NATO?s approach to Environmental Security, Jamie Patrick Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Emerging Security Challenges Division of the NATO said, ?Environmental protection in military operations is a young discipline and it still needs tender parent-ship to mature.?

A second theme focused upon the key elements of Environmental Security Assessments. For instance, how do ESAs deal with climate change issues, involve local stakeholders, take into account geopolitical aspects, engage different international and national actors and use earth observation, GIS and remote sensing. Laura Rio of UNEP spoke about ?the added value of ENVSEC that lays ultimately in its ability to bring interconnected environment and security benefits.? Other speakers in the session also emphasised the security angle and stressed the importance of conflict prevention.
During the third session, speakers shared experience and approaches which could help strengthen the quality and effectiveness of ESAs. Experts in this session unanimously agreed upon the importance of field work, that the assessments should meet the needs of the local context, that capacity-building of stakeholders was crucial, that the political context of key decision makers had to be taken into consideration and that cooperation and collaboration was imperative.

The final session focused on how ESAs can be made more useful to end users and dealt with ideas for follow-up and future cooperation. The participants agreed to continue to work together to exchange information on forthcoming ESAs and to help develop guidelines on how to carry out ESAs or how to use them.

More about the workshop

Clean the Niger Delta

?Standing before history? - Ken Saro-Wiwa 1995
28 October 2010

Clean the Niger Delta - Image On 10 November 2010 the Clean the Niger Delta Coalition organised a public event in The Hague, to help find sustainable solutions to the situation in this region. The Niger Delta is one of the world?s most important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems and oil pollution poses an enormous threat to environmental security in the region.

The event was held at the Plein in The Hague. Here some important stakeholders spoke about their ideas and commitments on the Niger Delta.

The meeting was part of a larger initiative aimed at commemorating the Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa exactly 15 years after his execution by the military government. His death and those of 8 other activists that day has served to spur what is an ongoing campaign to diffuse the tension in the region and return the land to a state that can provide secure livelihoods for all who live there.

To pay tribute to the life and campaigns of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a photo exhibition and a superb concert ?Standing Before History? took place in the evening of 10 November, featuring Nigerian singer-songwriter Nneka.

The Clean the Niger Delta Coalition is formed of 8 environmental, human rights and African diaspora organizations based in The Netherlands. Apart from the Institute for Environmental Security the coalition consists of Amnesty International, Cordaid, Friends of the Earth Netherlands, Oxfam Novib, the Hope for the Niger Delta Campaign, Afro-Euro, Global Human Rights Defence, and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO).

Visit the Clean the Niger Delta website | Poster | Video

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