United Nations Peacekeeping Operations: Environmental Sustainability

By Philip Stockdale, Rebekah Kirkwood, Julie Sapp, and Jonathan Daniel Defense & Technology Paper 111

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United Nations Peacekeeping Operations: Environmental Sustainability
United Nations Peacekeeping Operations: Environmental Sustainability
Philip Stockdale, Rebekah Kirkwood, Julie Sapp, and Jonathan Daniel
Photo By: NDU
VIRIN: 171018-D-BD104-001

United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO) are deployed to create, maintain, and secure peace in countries and regions struggling with violence and war. The environmental sustainability of UNPKO mission sites is not essential to the purpose of each deployment, but good sustainability practices can benefit the mission, host nation, troop-contributing countries, and the global environment. As a major contributor to UNPKO efforts, the United States has a direct interest in improving the sustainability and cost-effectiveness of each mission. 

This paper identifies gaps in sustainability practices at local and organizational levels and recommends an increased focus on sustainability practices that can benefit the mission, host nation, troopcontributing countries, and the environment. 

The United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) is a long-term mission, likely to be in place for at least another five years. Investments in active technologies such as solar energy and electric vehicles are already paying dividends. Expansion of these programs, as well as standardized environmental awareness training and improvements to UNIFIL’s water management practices would enhance the sustainability of the mission. 

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is a relatively recent mission, staffed with a high proportion of illiterate peacekeepers, in a politically unstable country with a harsh natural environment. Although required by Security Council resolution to manage its environmental impact, MINUSMA lacks the financial resources, manpower and timeline to invest in complex technologies with up-front cost. To comply with its environmental mandate, the mission should implement short-term, passive measures to improve water management and solar/thermal protection, as well as standardized environmental awareness training. If the situation in Mali stabilizes and MINUSMA is extended to a longer mandate, then the mission should follow the lead of UNIFIL and implement active technologies that are environmentally friendly and will save money over the life of the equipment. 

All of these recommendations can be applied, to some extent, to all UNPKO deployments. UN headquarters should take the lead in standardizing environmental training, technology and practices for all UNPKO missions. Cost-benefit calculations will always be important, but the overall benefit of good sustainability practices will extend to people and the environment from the local to the global level.

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