Environmental Security Case Studies
Security is a prerequisite to the effective liberty of individuals, which in turn is a prerequisite to good living. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, definitions of security have undergone significant expansion. Traditionally, security has been defined as a legal constancy so far as property rights are concerned as well as protection from violence perpetrated by outsiders. Security can encompass quality of life, access to basic human requisites like human dignity, human rights, personal autonomy, control over ones life and unhindered participation in society. Now, an increasingly important element to the definition of security encompasses environmental factors, which are seen to play both direct and indirect roles in violent conflicts and human crisis. Environmental security is the relationship between security concerns and the natural environment. [i] These can include any number of issues from destruction of natural resources, scarcity of natural resources, nuclear safety, ozone depletion and global warming. As defined by the UN Millennium project, environmental security is:
“Environmental viability for life support with three main sub-elements:
- preventing or repairing military damage to the environment
- preventing or responding to environmentally caused conflicts,
- and protecting the environment due to its inherent moral value.”[ii]
Broadly speaking “human-induced environmental degradation and scarcity pose fundamental physical threats”[iii]to security and several conflicts are both created and fueled by environmental factors such as these. In Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo, environmental threats are increasingly gaining fervor against military threats and pose serious threats to human security. It is therefore crucial that the United Nations and other international organizations accept a greater role to preventing environmental threats for the future.
There are several ways to look at environmental security. Environmental insecurity is either a result of conflict or conflict is a result of environmental insecurity. By environment I will refer to Terry Terriff’s definition,“all living and non-living components of the planet- the lithoshhere, biosphere, atmosphere and stratosphere.”[iv] For the purpose of this paper, I will focus on how the environment in both Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo is affecting human welfare and human security within those countries, what has been done and what can be done to aid the situations. Within these case studies , there are three ways that environment has created serious crisis of insecurity and prolonged violence. First, environmental abundance and scarcity can be seen as a cause of political instability and conflict, creating the underlying causes of conflict. Competition over natural resources, as well as, grievances from exclusion and environmental damage continue to fuel insecurity. Secondly, environmental degradation caused by the conduct of and preparation for war has created violence. Environmental damage like the disruption of agriculture and infrastructure is often brought on by warfare. This damage may hinder a nation’s ability to recover after hostilities have ceased Third, environmental degradation has become a threat to human health and human well-being, jeopardizing individual security.
Case Studies: Iraq and Democratic Republic of Congo
Environmental abundance and scarcity, competition over natural resources, as well as, grievances from exclusion and environmental damage is a serious problem in Iraq. While religious differences and ancestral rivalries between ethnic groups division play an enormous role in creating threats to human welfare within Iraq, insecurity is not solely based upon these factors. The distribution of natural resources and other environmental factors also plays a crucial role in the Iraqi insurgency. Grievances based on exclusion from natural resources have been a key instigator in Iraq’s civil conflict. “Scarcities of critical environmental resources—especailly of cropland, freshwater, and forests—contribute to violence in many parts of the world.”[v] In Iraq, environmental damage and decline has inflicted a “rapid social/political reorganization of society, creating grievances”[vi], which has lead to insecurity. The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is also suffering as a result of environmental security problems. Security in the Democratic Republic of Congo is very fragile. While MONUC was established in 1999 to help implement the Lusaka ceasefire agreement bringing an end to the second Congo war, conflict persists. There are continued outbreaks of extreme violence in Eastern Congo, as well as political and social unrest through out the region, threatening state collapse. Earlier this year, fighting in Bas-Congo and Kinshasa took the lives of over 400 civilian people. [vii] Likewise, there are renewed threats of serious violence in the Kivus which could escalate into yet another civil war. [viii] “Horrific attacks on civilians including murders, widespread rape, and the forced recruitment and use of child soldiers” [ix] are still common. Most recently, Clashes broke out in Kinshasa “between rebels and a pro-government militia in eastern Congo, forcing people to flee their homes.”[x]
To discuss the conflict in the DRC is almost impossible without analyzing the role environment and natural resources play. The two are deeply connected. “Countries, whose economies are dependent on natural resources such as oil and minerals, face a very high risk of conflict,” [xi] and the DRC is no exception. The DRC is rich in natural resources and various foreign and internal actors have exploited the country to gain an advantage over these shared resources and maintain power. Local militias are backed by bordering countries like Uganda and Rwanda as well as multinational mining corporations. “In these wars of abundance, groups compete for control of these resources, which ‘prize’ for controlling the state and can lead to coups, as in Sierra Leone and the DRC.” [xii] Other countries and corporations supply the country with food, money and weapons in exchange for smuggled resources like diamonds, copper, cobalt, gold, and uranium and there have been repeated military operations in the country which involve rape and attacks on civilians in areas that have the best mineral resources. The impact of this corruption is felt on citizens who often retaliate with violence. Further, those engaged in conflict see perpetuating the conflict to their own personal advantage as the political economy of war creates opportunities for those involved, where violence leads to more immediate gains than ending the conflict. [xiii]
“In many countries where state control over territory or economic activity is weak, autonomous power centers have emerged and have challenged the authority of the state. The more informal the nature of pre existing local political and economic transactions, the easier it is for these actors to capture them and use them to pursue their own economic agendas, as has happened, for example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”[xiv]
The second type of environmental degradation caused by the conduct of and preparation for war also creates violence. Ecocide refers to “the destruction of ecological systems by deliberate force.”[xv] It is a strategy and consequence of militarism. In Iraq, the Ba’athist regime left several obstacles to agricultural development in southern Iraq with the policy to destroy the Arab culture surrounding Iraq’s marshlands. [xvi] This policy resulted in the draining of most of Iraq’s southern marshes, ultimately making the region completely unsuitable for farming.[xvii] Now, those that inhabit the region are unable to sustain themselves agriculturally, leaving a large part of the population in poverty.[xviii] According to The World Bank, while other factors may be involved in intrastate conflict, countries that are most likely to engage in civil insurgency are those countries that have low, stagnant and unequally distributed per capita income. Even though civil conflict often occurs between ethnic groups, it happens only when there is a large discrepancy in their relative wealth. Then in 1990-91, the Iraqi military “employed oil spills and dires.”[xix] As deliberate strategy of “distraction or desparation.” “Ecocide has been viewed as a strategy that, in the heat of battle, becomes rather indistinguishable from a genocidal campaign: It becomes an end in itself, one that is pursued with the steady application of modern technology.” [xx] In addition, there are now new environmental concerns that are creating more violence by deepening resentment and grievances. Both the intentional and unintentional products of military strategies have created more environmental damage and thus more conflict. “Ecocide is now understood to involve much more than direct warfare…Ecocide also came to be viewed as an unintended result of military strategy and preparation and in particular one that harmed the local environmental security.” [xxi] As an unintentional result of the United States short term military strategy in Iraq, there is radiation pollution from depleted uranium warheads in many water supplies.[xxii]
The Third environmental degradation is a bit different from the previous two but is still inter-realated. The effects of these have become real threats to human health and human well-being, challenging the concept of individual security in both countries. In Iraq, the indirect and direct effects of warfare have damaged sanitation and water systems “coupled with worsening pollution, has aggravated Iraq's environmental crisis and posed a threat to health.”[xxiii] As an aftermath of the war in Iraq, the water system is becoming unusable as piles of rubbish and medical waste are being dumped into it. [xxiv] By the end of 2006, UNEP reported that millions of barrels of black oil were being pumped into open mountain valleys and leaky reservoirs next to the Tigris River and set on fire creating serious air pollution in certain communities. In addition,
“accumulated damage to water and sanitation systems had led to higher levels of pollution and health risks, it said. Continuous electricity cuts had often stopped the pumps that remove sewage and circulate freshwater. Power failures had also affected pumps that remove saline water from irrigated lands in the flood plains in southern Iraq, which had led to fields being waterlogged and contaminated with salt. Smoke from oil well fires and burning oil trenches had caused local air pollution and soil contamination.” [xxv]
The consequences of this environmental contamination is still unknown. UNEP experts expect that people inhaling DU dust into their lungs could receive radiation doses that constitute a health risk and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which provide most of the drinking water have become open sewers for run off from Industrial waste, hospital waste, fertiliser from farming, and oil spills. [xxvi] The fear is that as usable water is less and less available, soil will deteriorate farmers must travel farther and cultivate more land to produce the same quantity of food.
“There may be migration to cities, exacerbating problems that already exist there. Local unrest is another possibility, resulting from conflicts over scarce resources; or diets may become inadequate as a result of falling incomes. Here, as in other situations, state capacity to deal with the consequences of shortage may be the critical element in retaining stability.” [xxvii]
Another concern is that polluted water will lead to serious infectious disease and when coupled with the other factors like population growth could play a significant role in the development of regional conflict.
“Epidemics magnify other tragic consequences of population growth and resource depletion, increasing people's vulnerability to inadequate nutrition or other diseases. They also raise the probability of conflict by adding fear of contagion to whatever other ethnic, religious, or historical factors already make different groups hostility-prone.” [xxviii]
“A growing body of research is connecting violence to environmental degradation. The argument is that ecocide, as maximally defined, leads to conditions of human-human violence, which lead in turn to increaded levels of ecocide (in the narrower sense), population displacement and even genocide. The essential thesis is that the environmental stress caused by excessive human demands on ecosystems can create and/or ecacerbate absolute poverty to the point where violence is almost inescapable.” [xxix]
There is a strong link between environment and organized criminal activity in Iraq as well. Environmentally alienated tribal groups and new criminal networks have used the opportunity of the invasion in Iraq and the absence of state authority to obtain economic resources through illicit activities like kidnapping, smuggling, drug trafficking, arms dealing and car-jacking. [xxx]
In the DRC, environmental factors have created a climate of insecurity which has created little incentives for those involved in conflict to cease fire, creating a local climate of intolerance and a perceived threat of rearmament.[xxxi] Often, civilians are caught in the cross fire creating massive waves of displacement across the country and adding more fodder to the long list of growing grievances. [xxxii] In extreme cases these environmental factors can result in humanitarian crises and lead to environmental refugees. Between 1998 and 2005, the conflict in DRC lead to some 241,000 refugees to flee into Uganda.[xxxiii] “The mass movement of peoples are increasingly identified as security challenges.”[xxxiv] “People will abandon areas when environmental disruption jeoplardizes their existence or seriously erodes the quality or their lives. Environmental refugess may move internally or leave their country. Attempts to resettle in new areas will intensify local competition for resources, which can result in a backlash from the indifenous people, putting severs stress on the country, particulary when there is persistent violence and may also exacerbate inter-state conflicts.”
Efforts towards environmental security:
As environmental security is gaining attention, the international community is slowly taking strides to deal with the effects of environmental damage to deal with problems of insecurity. “A number of treaties or agreements already exist that either have environmental considerations or address the need to protect the environment. Some arms control treaties incorporate environmental considerations, notably the Antarctic treaty, the Partial Test Ban treaty, the Outer Space Treaty and the Sea-Bed Treatey.”[xxxv] Article 55 and 56 of the Geneva Protocol “call for combatants to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage and to forgo attacking installations containing elements capable of doing sever damage to the environment.”[xxxvi]They are more recommendations than enforceable laws though. The first strides were seen over a decade ago In Iraq, after the first gulf war, the international community adopted a resolution by the UN General Assembly on "the protection of the environment in time of conflict"[xxxvii] This resolution, stated that “destruction of the environment not justified by military necessity and carried out wantonly, is clearly contrary to international law.” [xxxviii] Then, In 1993 and 1994 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) prepared a series of guidelines for military manuals on the laws of war relevant to the protection of the environment during armed conflict.[xxxix] In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations made recommendations for the Security Council to impose economic sanctions on countries that are exploiting the DRC of resources to help build security in the area. [xl]
In 2001, a program sponsored by Canada, Italy and conservation groups began a project to re-flood the Mesopotamian marshlands bringing “approximately 25 and 35 percent of the marshes back, along with many birds and other wildlife.” [xli] Since 2002, the United States and the international community has worked to rehabilitate Iraqi sewage treatment plans and USAID reports that "over 2.3 million Iraqis who had no clean drinking water in 2002 now have access to safe, potable water." [xlii] There have also been improvements in legislation and awareness of environmental issues within the new Iraqi government. [xliii] The DRC has also launched a massive conservation program aimed at protecting the environment, regardless of geographical boundaries. “Apart from better access to drinking water, people in the region will profit from increasing ecotourism in and around the transboundary Virunga-Bwindi region.”[xliv]
While these are all important steps in the right direction, there are several things that still need to be done in order to eliminate or at least reduce environmental security threats that may create human welfare threats. First, the UN and the international community need to create an official definition to guide policy. Since security threats created by environment are transborder, the international community needs to have greater cooperation to ensure success.[xlv] Right now, the biggest problem is that there is little coherence within the international community about both the definition of environmental security, the potential threats and the appropriate policy that should be created to deal with these threats.[xlvi] Neither UNEP nor the World Health Organization have standard definitions on environmental security.[xlvii]
The UN millennium project definition is a good start. The definition is based on two main concepts. First, a greater focus for policy should be placed on repairing damage to the environment for human welfare. So, in conflicts like Iraq, more emphasis is needed on policy to repair the environment from the intentional and unintentional damage which is creating health problems and destroying human welfare. "The environment must be fully integrated into all reconstruction plans if the country is to achieve a strong and sustainable recovery." [xlviii] The protection from the dangers created by the environment relative to human welfare.
The second part of the UN millennium project definition places a moral value on the environment itself and urges policy to prevent damage to the environment from attacks and other forms of human abuse.[xlix] This places an emphasis on protecting the state from external based violence and protection from military activity. In DRC, both MONUC and the new government need to reassess their methods to security, and embrace a more integrated peace building process that covers environmental factors. MONUC’s mandate should be expanded to place a greater value on natural resources and include the monitoring and protection of these resources.
“UN peacekeepers should, in the course of their regular duties, report back to their superiors on the scale and specifics of resource exploitation activities. Moreover, MONUC peacekeepers should have the authority to take action against those operating mines or other extractive industries illegally or using child, slave or otherwise coerced labor.” [l]
MONUC could also use the international community and license an international NGO or the UN to monitor implementation of the mining and forestry codes to monitor and report on good governance in coordination with donors.” [li] Combining these, we might conclude that,
“the condition of environmental security is one in which social systems interact with ecological systems in sustainable ways, all individuals have fair and reasonable access to environmental goods, and mechanisms exist to address environmental crises and conflicts.’ [lii]
The next question is who should and can enforce these environmental policies. Do we opt for a militarization of the environment or green security. Is the military part of the problem or the solution? Individual military budgets should not exclusively deal with environmental policy enforecment but the international community should take on this role. If international civilian organizations are able to create a viable definition for environmental security then the defense responsibility might need to begin with them but end with the help of militaries.[liii] In one respect, “environmental problems should be seen as extremely important in their own right, able to command the attention and resources that traditionally security has had, rather than being viewed through the prism of security.”[liv] However, “the armed forces have had, and will continue to have, an important role in conserving bio-diversity and protecting ecological niches that in the civilian domain have been destroyed.” [lv] Military and conventional security agencies can be tasked with using intelligence data gathering and analysis assets, monitoring, predicting and ameliorating environmental problems, domestic and international.[lvi] “What our security requires is better research on what kinds of states are likely to experience increased risks of failure due to environmental changes, on ways to measure and anticipate the magnitude of such risks, and examinations of the consequences of policy measures designed to reduce those risks.”[lvii] Additionally they can “promote technology transfer and dialogue through military to military contact programs, using the army corps of engineers to help tackle specific environmental problems.” [lviii]
Also important is a need for greater focus on individual security over the state. Individuals must be safeguarded to protect the state”[lix] and be able to avert threats, not just react to them.
The concept of environmental security raises a lot of important questions about the definition of security; what is being secured, what is it being secured against, who provides this security, and what are the approaches to ensuring security.[lx]. Both Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo are only two examples but certainly show how environmental security is an issue that needs to be considered more in world affairs. There is an unmistakable link between environment and the welfare and security of its people. "Environmental protection is a humanitarian issue. Not only do environmental hazards threaten human health and wellbeing, but they can impede aid operations." [lxi] It is therefore important to look at how these environmental factors play into conflicts in order to develop appropriate policy and aid programs to deal with the conflicts. Policy needs to be expanded to both explore areas of prospective environmental deterioration, and also take into consideration that ethnic, social, institutional, and political sources of interstate or civil disorder.[lxii]
[i] Millennium Project Environmental Security Study Emerging International Definitions, Perceptions, and Policy Considerations
[ii] Millennium Project Environmental Security Study Emerging International Definitions, Perceptions, and Policy Considerations
[iii] Terriff, Terry, “Non-Traditional Security Threats: The Environment as a Security Issues,” in Security Studies Today, pg. 120
[iv] Terriff, 121
[v]Caldwell, Dan and Williams, Robert. Seeking Security in an Insecure World, 2005, pg. 159
[vi] Terriff, 120
[vii] Human rights watch. “Renewed Crisis in North Kivu.” http://hrw.org/reports/2007/drc1007/ October 22, 2007.
[viii] Human rights watch. “Renewed Crisis in North Kivu.” http://hrw.org/reports/2007/drc1007/ October 22, 2007.
[ix] “Human rights watch.” October 22, 2007.
[x] Isango, Eddy. “Congo fighting displaces more civilians.” Associated Press. Saturday, October 20, 2007.
[xi] Department for International Development. “The Causes of Conflict in Africa.” Consultation Document. March 2001.
[xii] Department for International Development. “The Causes of Conflict in Africa.” Consultation Document. March 2001.
[xiii] Department for International Development. “The Causes of Conflict in Africa.” Consultation Document. March 2001.
[xiv] US Agency for International Development. “Conducting a Conflict Assessment. A framework for strategy and program development.” April 2003. http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/cross-cutting_programs/conflict/publications/docs/CMM_ConflAssessFrmwrk_May_05.pdf. October 23, 2007.
[xv] Stoett, 51
[xvi] Wolfowitz, Tom. “Briefs Senate panel on plans for turning over sovereignty” the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: 20 April 2004( http://usinfo.state.gov)
[xviii] Global Policy Forum. “Iraq's Resistance to the Occupation.” http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/resistindex.htm
[xix] Stoett, Peter. “Environmental Degradation: Ecocide,” Human and Global Security: An Exploration of Terms (1999), pg. 62
[xx] Stoett, Peter. “Environmental Degradation: Ecocide,” Human and Global Security: An Exploration of Terms (1999), pg. 62
[xxi] Stoett, Peter. “Environmental Degradation: Ecocide,” Human and Global Security: An Exploration of Terms (1999), pg. 62
[xxiii] Richard W. Fisher. “The Environment and Military Strategy.” Air & Space Chronicles. June 2003. www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/cc/fisher.html.
[xxiv] Richard W. Fisher. “The Environment and Military Strategy.” Air & Space Chronicles. June 2003. www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/cc/fisher.html.
[xxv] Environmental Law Institute. “Addressing Environmental Consequences of War.” Washington D.C. June, 1998: 6.
[xxvi] Leahy, Stephen. “ IRAQ: Environmental Nightmare Drags On” Tierramerica. Totonto, Mar 21.
[xxvii] Kennedy, Donald. “Environmental Quality And Regional Conflict, A Report to the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict”. Carnegie Corporation of New York December 1998
[xxviii] Kennedy, Donald. “Environmental Quality And Regional Conflict, A Report to the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict”. Carnegie Corporation of New York December 1998
[xxix] Kennedy, Donald. “Environmental Quality And Regional Conflict, A Report to the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict”. Carnegie Corporation of New York December 1998
[xxx] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
[xxxi] Human rights watch. “Renewed Crisis in North Kivu.”http://hrw.org/reports/2007/drc1007/ October 22, 2007.
[xxxii] US Agency for International Development. “Conducting a Conflict Assessment. A framework for strategy and program development.” April 2003. http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/cross-cutting_programs/conflict/publications/docs/CMM_ConflAssessFrmwrk_May_05.pdf. October 22, 2007.
[xxxiii] World Food Program. http://www.wfp.org/english/?ModuleID=137&Key=1814
[xxxiv] Terriff, 135
[xxxv] Terriff, 129
[xxxvi] Terriff, 129
[xxxvii] GA res. 47/37, November 1992
[xxxviii] United Nations Environment Programme. A Strategy for Protecting the People and the Environment in Post-War Iraq. 10 June 2003 http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/iraq_ds.pdf.
[xxxix] Adler, Jonathan. “Saddam Hussein, Eco-Criminal.” March 21, 2003. National Review Online. June 2003. http://www.nationalreview.com/script/printpage.asp?ref=/adler/adler032103.asp
[xl] .Amnesty International “Our brothers who help kill us”—economic exploitation and human rights abuses in the east,” Amnesty International Report, AFR 62/010/2003, April 1, 2003.October 25,2007
[xli] Leahy, Stephen. “ IRAQ: Environmental Nightmare Drags On” Tierramerica. Totonto, Mar 21.
[xlii] Leahy, Stephen. “ IRAQ: Environmental Nightmare Drags On” Tierramerica. Totonto, Mar 21.
[xliii] Leahy, Stephen. “ IRAQ: Environmental Nightmare Drags On” Tierramerica. Totonto, Mar 21.
[xliv]Institute for Environmental Security. http://www.envirosecurity.org/news/?cat=2
[xlv] Millennium Project Environmental Security Study Emerging International Definitions, Perceptions, and Policy Considerations
[xlvi] Millennium Project Environmental Security Study Emerging International Definitions, Perceptions, and Policy Considerations
[xlvii] Millennium Project Environmental Security Study Emerging International Definitions, Perceptions, and Policy Considerations
[xlviii] Richard W. Fisher. “The Environment and Military Strategy.” Air & Space Chronicles. June 2003. www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/cc/fisher.html.
[xlix] Millennium Project Environmental Security Study Emerging International Definitions, Perceptions, and Policy Considerations
[l] “Escaping the Conflict Trap: Promoting Good Governance in the Congo.” Africa Report N°114
20 July 2006
[li] “Escaping the Conflict Trap: Promoting Good Governance in the Congo.” Africa Report N°114
20 July 2006
[lii] Millennium Project Environmental Security Study Emerging International Definitions, Perceptions, and Policy Considerations
[liii] Millennium Project Environmental Security Study Emerging International Definitions, Perceptions, and Policy Considerations
[liv] Stoett, 69
[lv] Terriff, ,129
[lvi] Terriff, ,129
[lvii] Kennedy, Donald. “Environmental Quality And Regional Conflict, A Report to the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict”. Carnegie Corporation of New York December 1998
[lviii] Millennium Project Environmental Security Study Emerging International Definitions, Perceptions, and Policy Considerations
[lix] Terriff, 133
[lxi] Environmental Law Institute. “Addressing Environmental Consequences of War.” Washington D.C. June, 1998: 6.
[lxii] Kennedy, Donald. “Environmental Quality And Regional Conflict, A Report to the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict”. Carnegie Corporation of New York December 1998