David Jensen heads the Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding programme of the UN Environment Programme. His portfolio of work focuses on how natural resources contribute to conflict, as well as how they can be managed in ways that create jobs, sustain livelihoods, and contribute to economic recovery and peacebuilding, without creating new grievances or significant environmental degradation. He has worked on 15 post-conflict operations from Afghanistan and Iraq to Sierra Leone and more recently in Cote d’Ivoire. In addition to field work, he also focuses on integrating natural resource risks and opportunities across UN policies on conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. He is currently co-managing a new series of six flagship books on natural resources and peacebuilding involving over 230 contributors capturing lessons learned from over 50 different post-conflict countries. He is also the co-editor of one of the books within the series entitled “Assessing and Restoring Natural Resources in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding” published on 6 November 2012. He holds a bachelor’s degree in geography and political science from the University of Victoria and a master’s degree in biology from the University of Oxford.
Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding – Post-Conflict & Disaster Management Branch
While natural resources are key assets to achieve sustainable development, they are also increasingly acting as drivers of violent conflict and instability. This problem is especially acute in fragile states and post-conflict countries which fundamentally depend on harnessing their resource wealth in order to stabilize and develop. Yet these countries also have the lowest capacity to capture the multiple benefits from natural resources without triggering new sources of conflict, causing major environmental degradation or unleashing the “resource curse.”
As the global population continues to rise, and the global demand for resources continues to grow, natural resources held in fragile states are becoming the next frontier for an intensified resource scramble. As countries and companies compete to secure concessions and remaining supplies, fragile states are particularly vulnerable to poor contract terms, non-transparent decision making, negative impacts and corruption. To prevent this natural wealth from being pillaged and plundered in the years ahead, many fragile states are seeking international assistance to adopt forward looking and innovative policies and safeguards to protect and manage their resource endowments, including mechanisms to resolve conflicts, promote transparency and accountability, involve the public in decision making and ensure the fair distribution of benefits. In short, capitalizing on the promise offered by natural resources while avoiding the peril.
The overall aim of the Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding programme is to assist countries, regional organizations and the UN system to assess and transform potential sources of conflict over natural resources into an opportunity for cooperation and a platform for peacebuilding. The programme offers risk assessments, technical advice, targeted training, and a neutral platform for stakeholder dialogue.