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.
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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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Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.

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Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

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The Free Market Vs Government Argument Is A Myth to Hide the Flaws In Our Current System

The Free Market doesn't exist without government.

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I recently finished up a course regarding the working class and poverty in America.

The "free market" myth was a focal point as it was part of the core in terms of flaws within financial capitalism. We read "Saving Capitalism" by Robert Reich, former US Secretary of Labor where he lays out the corruption built into each building block of American capitalism, and how it's currently failing us.

Now get ready, because it's long but so important that the general public recognizes:

Before I continue, I should note that Reich is not anti-capitalism. He roots for it as the best system but explains what has happened over the decades to explain how we got to the point we are at, and referencing periods in the past where the system was working for the majority.

The main point here is that the corruption built into what was once a prospering system for the majority is now really only serving to benefit a different minority: the top 1%.

Reich breaks capitalism down into five pillars: property, monopoly, contract, bankruptcy, and enforcement.

Changes in legislation, and mainly interactions between big corporations, Wall Street banks and government have been in their favor, giving them the upper hand while simultaneously damaging average Americans and their bargaining power.

Within each of the pillars, he makes it a point to reiterate that the "free market" versus "free government" argument is a cover-up. It serves to mislead and blind because the politicians and big corporations debating this don't want the general public to understand that this is irrelevant; if they knew more, they would start to unravel the corruption, where it stems from, and how it intermingles. It makes it easier on these influential and powerful parties to spew this argument out to keep the real systematic problems out of sight.

Without government, the market wouldn't exist. It takes two.

Examples of changes within each of the five pillars represent the modern corruption:

Let's start with property. As technology has advanced and property now includes 'intellectual property,' requests for patents have increased. Reich highlights that there are even patents on the process of making certain drugs, which allow pharmaceutical companies to increase the price of their medications so high, that it's not even realistically available to most of the public who would need it.

In terms of monopolies, the intersection between economic and political power have created an uneven playing field that keep entrants and discoverers out of the market, lowering the number of entrepreneurial endeavors that could potentially come about if it weren't for these relationships.

Reich brings up the fact that natural processes are now monopolized as well. Monsanto farms, for example, is responsible for an enormous percentage of soybeans in the US will not allow others to know their "trade secrets"; they own a patent on biotechnology and their genetically modified seeds.

Consequently, consumers don't know what pesticides are being used, and it forces farmers to destroy thousands of dollars worth of seeds after each season because keeping any would be illegal under the rules that go along with the patent.

Contracts the 4th building block of American capitalism and as Reich puts it, they're capitalism's lifeblood. They exemplify another way the market is fixed by big corporations and government agencies because in many cases, the terms of contract agreements allow big corps an easy way out that is legal.

For example, Apple's terms and conditions are about 30 pages. Clicking "I agree" essentially means handing over your privacy rights, so no matter what may happen to your information, technically you agreed, so they're in the clear. They make it seem as though you really had a choice--as if every other smart device has if not the same, very similar terms.

Changes within contracts include employees at large corporations now having to sign non-compete clauses which limit their potential future job opportunities by prohibiting them from working at "rival companies." This further limits underprivileged Americans who don't have a degree by further limiting they're already narrow spectrum of potential jobs--an example of what keeps the poor, poor.

Bankruptcy was originally designed so that average Americans could start over, but now legislation has changed what types of things, and who can actually file for bankruptcy so that it's not available to those who would benefit from it most. Instead, many large corporations file for bankruptcy at the expense of workers and union members (workers costs are usually the first expense cut) while CEO salaries continue to rise.

Finally, enforcement isn't what it used to be, and funding for agencies that are responsible for enforcing policies. The IRS has been hollowed out significantly. This means reduced chances that unpaid taxes will be caught, and that the wealthy doing this will be audited. Legal fines are also insignificant for big business.

For example, Halliburton admitted to destroying evidence related to an oil spill disaster that made headlines, and their multi-billion dollar company was charged a mere $200,000. Fines have become just a part of conducting business for them.

You may be thinking "How is this happening?" and how big corporations get away with a mere slap on the wrist so often, while average Americans continue to struggle. Part of the answer lies in the fact that corporations often offer government officials positions once they're terms are up.

What does this do? Further ensures their financial, political and legal confidence. Remember the Monsanto example? Well, many of their past employees now have top positions at the FDA and agriculture department.

Campaign donations are another big factor. Big business and Wall Street banks donate millions to both sides, so no matter who "wins," they're agendas still have a good chance of being fulfilled. Don't even get me started on the millions spent in lobbying either.

All of this is going, and the top 1% continue to get richer, while many of their own average employees are struggling. Big business and banks paying their workers so low essentially means the rest of us are subsidizing large corporations for their refusal to pay their own workers a living wage.

There was a time when capitalism worked for the majority, with a large middle class living a comfortable life. In order to get back to that and have an economy that's sustainable in the long run, Reich says a reorganization is needed that will include changed laws on political contributions/job offers, bargaining power for the middle class, and perhaps most importantly... a denial of the "free market" vs "free government argument.

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