Protecting Virunga, Livelihood Security and Conflict Prevention

Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai speaks on the relationship between scarce natural resources and global conflict.

The following insight from the platform for exchange on Environment, Conflict and Cooperation (ECC) highlights the importance of nature protection in securing vital livelihoods and supporting the reduction of conflicts. One more piece of evidence that protecting Virunga and its vital ecosystems will contribute to livelihood security and  to conflict prevention in a region raged by conflicts for its scarce resources.

Nature protection is most sustainable in places where it essentially contributes to the long-term stability of human needs. Many regions of the world are today confronted with increasing destruction of the natural foundations of life. The consequences of wide-ranging resource destruction are no longer regionally limited, but rather represent a global threat today, whether in the form of global climate change, the loss of biological diversity, or the growing spread of deserts. Those affected are mainly rural populations, who find the sources of their income and foundations of their way of life swept away. The depletion and destruction of natural resources goes hand in hand with decreasing agricultural yields and increasing poverty, which in return forces the affected population to diminish the remaining resources.

The interconnectedness of natural resources and livelihood security is apparent:

  • Over one billion people – one-sixth of the world‘s population – lack access to safe water.

  • 13 million people worldwide dig, hammer or pan for mineral resources using the most basic tools or their bare hands. The products of their labour – smallest amounts of raw materials such as silver, gold or diamonds – secure these people a minimal existence.

  • Three-quarters of the world‘s extreme poor live in rural areas. They largely depend on agriculture for a living.

  • For 240 million poor people who live in wooded areas, the forest directly contributes to reducing extreme poverty and hunger. It provides them with food, water, firewood, building materials and shelter.

  • Some 800 million people suffer from chronic malnutrition. Two billion people – one-third of the world‘s population – have an insufficient supply of nutritious food.

Against this background, rural development and nature conservation policy need to work hand in hand to sustainably align agriculture and resource protection with one another, and to increase the capacities of local populations. If this fails, the danger of increasing local or even regional tensions and conflicts grows. Nature protection or nature cooperation alone cannot prevent or end violent conflict. However, they can make a contribution in the context of a comprehensive regional strategy for peace, which encompasses elements like the advancement of cultural, economic, and social development.

Nature protection can secure livelihoods and in this way support the reduction of political and societal tensions. By internalizing norms, creating regional identities and interests, operationalizing information routines as well as reducing the use of violence, nature policy has direct impacts on regional cooperation. In this way, nature protection policy also becomes a component of a country’s foreign and security policy.

Source: ECC-Platform

 The ECC-platform aims to foster sustainable peace by creating networks among stakeholders from the development, environment, foreign and security communities worldwide.