What The UN Needs To Improve With The Protection Of The Environment In Areas Of Armed Conflict

What The UN Needs To Improve With The Protection Of The Environment In Areas Of Armed Conflict

In any attempt to rebuild war-torn nations and regions, environmental preservation and natural resources play vital roles.

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.

Cover Image Credit: Daria Nepriakhina / Unsplash

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.


It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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You're Not Too Smart To Be A Teacher

What, do they want dumb people teaching their kids?


One of the most common and paradoxical things I've been told about my plans for the future is "Oh, but you're too smart to be a teacher!" The people who say it always mean well (it's generally my friends, or family, or other teachers), but it's always hurt just a little bit. It's as if I'm being told, "You're wasting your potential," or, "You should be doing more," or, "Being a teacher is not enough."

Why, though? Isn't teaching one of the most idealistic careers? Teachers have the ability to change the world for their students. Good teachers can inspire a love of learning in their class that can last a lifetime. For every genius that history remembers in science or art or mathematics or writing or anything else, I can guarantee that there are a couple of very good teachers in the shadows.

So why this stigma about smart people going into education? Is it not enough to inspire the next generation, give them the tools to reach greatness? Where is the line for how smart is too smart? Does every smart person need to go find the cure for cancer, or translate ancient books, or become president? What if all I want to do is teach children? Is that so much of a crime?

The problem isn't that I'm too smart for teaching. In fact, if I press people about this question, and ask if they're implying teachers should be dumb, they tend to backpedal and say that of course teachers should be smart because children can't learn if the person teaching them doesn't know what they're talking about. The problem is that I am too smart to be a teacher, personally, because I could be far more successful somewhere else.

The thing is, a lot of this stigma is a very well-meant "I don't think you'll be very successful as a teacher." Your friends and family tell you this because they want you to be able to support yourself. Your teachers tell you this because they know it's at times a really difficult job that doesn't pay well. Sure, if you're in life for the money, teaching may not be very rewarding for you. Everyone knows that a teacher's salary is pretty low. Financially successful people aren't teachers. However, they are lawyers. They are politicians. They are scientists and artists and doctors and anyone else who is really good at something and focused on it in their career. Smart people can make good money, and often that's at the heart of your friends and family's well-meaning doubts.

So there's the problem. Teachers can't be successful, can they? This is less about the impacting the world and more about impacting yourself. Your family is worried about you, that you won't be able to get by (which, if we're being honest, isn't TOO much of a concern, if you're savvy with money). They think that you could be more successful doing something else.

I'd like to challenge this idea that the only way you can be successful in life is to have a six-figure paycheck.

You see, success today generally means having money, fame, power, a nice house, a good car, no debt, etc. More generally, though, success is just the accomplishment of your goals. So what success is to you is really based on what your goals are in life. If your goals are to get as much money as you can, then they're right: you will not get success as a teacher. But if your goals are to impact the world, inspire the next generation, and create change, then there are few other careers where you can succeed quite so meaningfully.

In today's world, controlled by greed and money, we need smart teachers. We need smart people who feel a passion for something other than money. We need smart people who want to help others and recognize that one of the best ways to do that is to give the next generation the tools it needs to make a better world. We need people who look at this world's definition of success and reject it, people who decide to make their own definition.

I am smart, and I want to be a teacher. I am smart, and I want to use that to help others. My definition of success is being a light in the lives of my future students, giving them a love of learning and a safe environment in which to learn. My dream is to change the world by inspiring others and giving them the tools they need to make the world a better place. My goal is to give the next generation a chance to do amazing things.

I challenge you to make your own definition of success. At the end of the day, this is only my definition of success. What matters is that you can answer this question: what's yours?


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