A Secure Future: Environmental Cooperation For Peacebuilding In The 21st Century – OpEd


The 21st century has brought about a greater recognition of the importance of environmental relationships well-being and global peace. It is becoming increasingly clear that as the environment continues to degrade it has the potential to worsen conflicts and act as a multiplier threat.  This essay aims to explore this relationship by crucially focusing on how environmental scarcity amplifies conflict and by proposing the use of environmental cooperation as an effective tool for peacebuilding. 

Scarcity Environmental as Catalyst for Conflict

At the core of the link between and environmental conflicts lies the issue of resource scarcity. When essential resources like food water and arable land become scarce intensifies competition, especially in already vulnerable regions. This heightened competition often leads to conflicts in violent communities as fight for their secure survival. For example, the Syrian Civil War driven by a range of political factors was significantly fueled by a multi-year severe drought that damaged agricultural output, causing rural communities to be displaced and contributing to social unrest. Climate change further exacerbates the issue as rising temperatures unpredictable weather patterns and sea-level rise pose threats to food security worsening water and scarcity triggering extreme weather events. These factors lead to forced population displacement disrupted livelihoods and increased tensions all of which potentially lead to conflicts. 

Moreover apart from scarcity degradation environment itself can create competition. Unsustainable practices such as deforestation and depleted overfishing of shared resources result in disputes over transboundary water sources or fishing contested grounds. The Nile Basin River serves as a prime example with countries facing challenges to agreements reaching water usage rights due to expanding populations and declining levels of water caused by climate change. 

However, the environment does not have to be solely a source of conflict; it can also be a valuable tool for promoting cooperation and peacebuilding. By recognizing and sharing the challenges of environmental degradation, countries have an opportunity to collaborate in addressing these issues. Initiatives like diplomacy between nations that come together to tackle mutual environmental concerns hold great potential. These collaborations foster trust, provide a platform for dialogue and cooperation, help ease tension, and create a more peaceful environment.

Transboundary initiatives like peace parks demonstrate how ecological diplomacy can be put into practice. Peace parks are protected areas that span international borders, promoting biodiversity conservation and fostering cooperation between neighboring countries. An example of a successful model is Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which stretches between Botswana and South Africa. This park not only preserves wildlife migration routes but also encourages joint patrols, information sharing, and cultural exchange between the two nations. 

Furthermore, sustainable resource management practices can significantly contribute to peacebuilding efforts. Ensuring fair access to resources and the associated benefits is crucial in reducing competition and promoting stability. Initiatives that support sustainable agricultural management and renewable energy can ensure equitable resources and responsible management, leading to long-term stability and a decrease in potential conflicts. 

Additionally, in post-conflict situations, it is vital to restore the environment as a means of rebuilding war-torn societies. By rehabilitating degraded ecosystems, we not only achieve environmental benefits but also create employment, foster opportunities, a sense of community ownership, and promote reconciliation. 

Preserving the environment for peace and security is a shared responsibility at the international and national levels. It is essential to integrate environmental considerations into security strategies. National security agendas must acknowledge environmental threats and the potential to escalate conflicts. Implementing early warning systems for climate-induced disasters and proactive resource management plans can help mitigate these risks. Addressing the root causes of conflicts, such as poverty and inequality, which often stem from resource competition, is also vital for achieving long-term peace. 

At a global level, it is crucial to strengthen environmental agreements and foster greater cooperation. Frameworks like the Paris Agreement on climate change serve as essential platforms for collective action in addressing global environmental challenges. Additionally, promoting sustainable development practices on a global scale requires increased international investment in renewable energy sources, resource-efficient technologies, and climate-resilient infrastructure.

Looking ahead in investing sustainable environment is an investment in peace. Transitioning to renewable energy sources promoting resource efficiency and implementing effective strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change are not only environmental imperatives but also crucial for a fostering peaceful world. addressing However addressing justice and equity issues is also essential to ensure environmental peace.  This means is the prioritizing needs of vulnerable communities who are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation. Inclusive decision-making processes in environmental matters and empowering local communities are crucial steps towards creating a more equitable and peaceful future. In addition, education and awareness raising are necessary to nurture a culture of environmental peace. Educational programs that emphasize connection between the environmental well-being and human security play a vital role. Moreover empowering local communities to take responsibility for their environment will lead to a more participatory and sustainable approach to building environmental peace.

In conclusion, the well-being of all people in the future relies on a healthy planet. The environment not should be viewed merely as a backdrop for human conflicts but as a critical factor in achieving and maintaining peace and stability.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.


  1. Environmental Scarcity and Violent Conflict: A Cross-National Study” by Thomas Homer-Dixon. International Security, vol. 18, no. 1, 1993, pp. 5-40. This seminal work explores the relationship between environmental scarcity and violent conflict.
  2. “Climate Change and Conflict: Special Report” by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). IPCC, 2012. This report discusses the impacts of climate change on conflict and peacebuilding.
  3. “The Environmental Dimension of Human Rights” by Mary Robinson. Human Rights Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 2, 2007, pp. 494-522. This article examines the intersection of environmental issues and human rights, including the right to peace.
  4. “Peace Parks: Conservation and Conflict Resolution” by Marc H. Levy, Peter Spalding, and Thomas M. Young. Marine Policy, vol. 23, no. 1-2, 1999, pp. 77-94. This paper discusses the role of peace parks in resolving conflicts and promoting peace.
  5. “Sustainable Development Goals: 17 Goals to Transform Our World” United Nations. UN, 2015. This document outlines the UN’s vision for sustainable development, including goals related to peace and justice.
  6. “The Role of Renewable Energy in Sustainable Development” by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). IRENA, 2018. This report highlights the importance of renewable energy in achieving sustainable development and peace.

Simon Hutagalung

Simon Hutagalung is a retired diplomat from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and received his master's degree in political science and comparative politics from the City University of New York. The opinions expressed in his articles are his own.

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