More Effective Responses to Health & Environmental Emergencies through Peacebuilding
Thursday 5 May 14.00
In English and in French
10 out of the 21 countries most susceptible to climate change also host UN peacekeeping and special political missions in response to conflict and other underlying tensions and insecurities. Environmental degradation and climate change negatively affect poverty levels, economic growth, food security and public health. Where environmental and climatic conditions reach emergency levels, they exacerbate conflict and impede peace efforts by driving instability and displacement; this, in turn, exacerbates access to public services with particularly devastating consequences for public health, as evidenced by the ‘burden of disease’ that is experienced in conflict-affected contexts.
The World Health Organization is already pursuing a ‘Health and Peace’ agenda. Interpeace – an international peacebuilding organisation headquartered in Geneva – is working with the WHO and UN member states to enhance the quality of health responses in emergency settings and conflict contexts worldwide. Through the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, Interpeace is also working with a wide variety of other international actors to address the threats and opportunities at the intersection of climate change and peace.
These lines of collaboration are enabling a growing understanding of the intersection of threats as well as opportunities for resolving deep-seated health and environmental challenges by using peacebuilding methodologies, including participatory action research; facilitated dialogue between actors at Tracks One, Two and Three; and collaborative, multidisciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches. In particular, there is growing recognition of the value of a deliberate emphasis when responding to health and climate emergencies on strengthening social resilience and on using approaches that move beyond largely reactive ‘conflict sensitivity’ and ‘do no harm’ orientations to more proactive ‘peace responsiveness’ – which underlines in particular the importance of strengthening health systems and addressing environmental crises through systemic, organisational, and individual change that is practical and context-specific.
Unequal access to healthcare services in environmental emergencies fosters conflict and violence, whilst lack of trust or social cohesion, misinformation, and weak governance hinder reconciliation efforts. To implement a successful health programme in fragile and conflict-affected settings (especially when also affected by environmental challenges) it is crucial to understand the underlying drivers of conflict and to develop holistic, cross-sectoral programming that can strengthen the social contract between the state and its citizens. This enables the conditions to create positive change towards better health, better environment, and more sustainable peace. ‘One Health’ efforts are an example which already unites peace, health, and environment.
The purpose of the proposed panel is to explore and identify the ways in which conflict intersects with environmental degradation and health emergencies, and the lessons that can be learned about how better responses to those emergencies can be achieved by applying peacebuilding methodologies.
This high-level panel was organised by Interpeace with guidance from the Champions for Peace and Health. It brought together speakers from civil society actors in conflict-affected settings, governments, as well as international and non-governmental organizations to elucidate convergences between environment, peace and health and propose solutions that impact people’s lives and the environment.