Creating New Tools for the Job

By: Lydia Cardona, Conservation International

Calapa seedling © Benjamin Drummond

Headlines about scarce natural resources driving or causing conflicts are not hard to find. Threats of war over the control and use of natural resources – such as oil, timber and water- become more imminent as rapid, unsustainable development and climate change increase the pressure on renewable and non-renewable resources. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, more than 40% of internal conflicts over the last 60 years are linked to the exploitation of natural resources.  However, conflict is not the only side of the intersection between peace and the environment. 

Collaboration around natural resource management can become a catalyst for peace, meaning that the arrow that links these issues points in both directions. Yes, conservation can contribute to conflict, but it can also support peacebuilding. In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council unanimously passed joint resolutions on “Sustaining Peace”, an agenda focused on promoting conditions for peace across societies in a way that is preventative of conflict rather than a response to it. 

Throughout the history of our organization, Conservation International (CI) has worked to build cooperative institutions and improve policies and practices around natural resource governance. As a conservation organization that puts human well-being at the center of its work, CI is committed to proactively—rather than reactively—addressing potential conflict within its work from an integrated, locally-led perspective. 

In response to this, CI’s Policy Center for Environment and Peace is pleased to announce the publication of its Environmental Peacebuilding Training Manual, which focuses on increasing awareness, knowledge and skills on identifying drivers or root causes of conflict, analyzing conflict dimensions, fostering conflict sensitive program design and promoting consensus building among conservation practitioners and organizations working in areas affected by conflict or where conservation efforts could potentially impact conflict.  

This manual seeks to broaden practitioners’ awareness of these relationships and to provide specific tools for integrating environmental peacebuilding. Specific modules on stakeholder engagement, conflict analysis, conflict-sensitive programming, and collaborative consensus-building encompass a series of approaches, tools, and skills that are relevant to promoting peace and sustainability across CI’s global efforts. 

CI works in many fragile contexts, and our experience underscores the importance of this integrated approach to conservation and peace and the need for these tools. By creating a dialogue among stakeholders, encouraging local engagement, and helping communities with natural resource management, CI promotes peace in communities in Peru, Timor Leste, the Philippines, Bolivia and numerous other countries. Our facilitation of international dialogues and agreements has enabled the establishment of the Coral Triangle Initiative and the Cordillera del Condor peace park between Ecuador and Peru, which have minimized conflict and led to more coordinated dispute resolution. The manual showcases case studies which ground the relevance and adaptability of these approaches in CI’s local experiences around the world.  

Putting tools that make these links in the hands of staff and partners who are implementing at the local level is critical to supporting local decision-making and amplifying the voices of those impacted by and benefiting from conservation actions.  This is ultimately where the bridge between high-level agendas—both Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) and Sustaining Peace—to local level dynamics is apparent and critical through CI’s work.

Environmental peacebuilding is an approach that can be transformational in addressing some of the human security challenges that climate change, population growth and resource degradation threaten to exacerbate.  CI is eager to share these tools and resources with our partners under the belief that, ultimately, collaboration and the broadening of perspectives around complex problems will provide the greatest benefit for both people and nature.

Our new Environmental Peacebuilding Training Manual can be accessed on CI’s Environmental Peacebuilding website. For questions or comments, please contact Janet Edmond, Senior Director of Peace and Development Partnerships at CI, at