There is an urgent importance for measures to circumvent environmental damage in conflict prevention and preservation. Exploitation and subsequent depletion of resources, in the past sixty years, have been found to have caused 40 percent of civil wars, though other tensions and conflicts may overlay this root cause. Resource-triggered conflicts are more likely to relapse than other types of civil hostilities, but peacebuilding efforts are still unlikely to engage in resource management. Exploitation of resources can often be used as a tactic to undermine peacebuilding efforts. In any attempt to rebuild war-torn nations and regions, environmental preservation and natural resources play vital roles. They are necessary to successfully create sustainability, recover the economy, reform government, create dialogue and resettle displaced peoples.
Since conflicts due to the depletion of resources can further exacerbate damage to the environment of that region, it is crucial that member states and the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) work collaboratively to assess and address the effects of conflict. The UN’s use of Post-Conflict Needs Assessments (PCNAs) often fails to fully account for the connection between sustainability, conflict prevention, and natural resources. The World Bank report, "Review of Experiences with Post-Conflict Needs Assessments," suggests a need for the PCNA process to be streamlined within UN agencies, in order to build capacity for information-gathering and use resources efficiently. The Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD) also suggests that all state parties agree to refrain in military or other means of environmental modification techniques, which present a possibility of lasting or severe environmental damages for the purposes of damaging other states parties. The ICRC is expected to release a new guideline in 2018, and the UN looks forward to working with the international community and raising the standard to which they hold themselves in light of these new developments.
The Disasters and Conflicts Program, under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has also provided environmental expertise to over 40 countries on post-crisis environmental assessment and recovery, allowing for peacebuilding processes to be more closely informed by resource management. The operations focus on human health, security, livelihood, disaster risk reduction and environmental cooperation for peacebuilding, and have had success in many African and Eastern European countries, among others. The Disasters and Conflicts program has had great success in the Sahel region in “climate-proofing” development with consideration for conflict.
The United Arab Emirates recommend that existing post-conflict environmental assessments and recovery measures be strengthened and expanded in order to reduce their vulnerability. Through the UNEP Disasters and Conflicts Program, the UN should create a protocol on climate change vulnerability assessment, for both preventative and reactive measures, which could be supplemental to a PCNA. Through this protocol, the UNEP should identify potential conflict hotspots through national and regional assessments of the distribution and availability of key resources, as well as the impact conflict has had on the region's environment and resources. The expansion of the PCNA program will help both the UN and peacebuilding teams to fill gaps in with knowledge and mainstream conflict sensitivity.
There should be an incorporation of “natural resource scarcity and risk” assessment within pre-existing UN Early Warning for Preventing Conflict programs, where they are lacking. UN early warning systems should include capacities for the following factors: unsustainable livelihoods, resource governance, and resource scarcity. By requesting that all UN agencies incorporate assessments of their projects specifically with attention to conflict and climate change, a more complete picture of needs, risks, and best practices can be available to peacebuilding teams.