Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Atul Khare, presented the new strategy on United Nations peace operations and the environment at Columbia University on 29 November.
The Under-Secretary-General set out the Department’s vision for responsible missions that “operate at maximum efficiency in their use of natural resources, and at minimum risk to people, societies and ecosystems; contributing to a positive impact wherever possible”. The strategy sets out a six-year path to achieve this vision, building on existing policies, lessons learnt and practices throughout the UN system to ensure a consistently high performance in this area. The strategy is in line with the sustainable development goals on the protection of the planet from degradation and sustainable management of natural resources.
Mr. Khare underscored the need for large peace operations to limit their environmental footprint when they operate in areas that often don’t have the infrastructure to preserve vulnerable environments. “Environmental performance is crucial to ensure that we do no harm to the people we are mandated to protect” he said.
The strategy is a “living document” and will be continuously updated. It identifies challenges and objectives based on five pillars: energy, water and wastewater, waste, wider impact and environmental management systems.
Focusing specifically on water Mr. Khare committed to the proper treatment of wastewater, frequent monitoring of the disposal practices and making available information on the UN’s actions publicly on a regular basis.
“We need to change our systems and we need to change our mindset” Mr. Khare stated during his speech at the launch event.
The strategy specifically identifies key performance indicators to be met by 2020, introduces a performance management system, clarifies governance and implementation structures, provides updated guidance to missions and outlines actions needed in relation to policy review, human resource development, information management systems, mission level planning and budgeting, training and communications. It will draw on a partnership that has been agreed with UNEP, who will supply technical assistance to both HQ and missions.
Its implementation lies with the Department of Field Support, which supports 36 peace operations, including 16 UN peacekeeping missions and 19 special political missions, as well as the African Union-led AMISOM, in over 30 countries, thus assuming great responsibility in terms of environment footprint.
The executive summary of the strategy is publicly available here: http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/publications/UNDFS_Environment_Strategy_ExecSum_vF.pdf