Land issues are at the heart of many of today’s violent conflicts. In countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Colombia, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Timor L’Este, unequal access to land and insecurity of tenure remain critical challenges to peace.
Now a new initiative by the UN and the European Union (EU) will support countries to address land and natural resource issues more systematically within an overall framework of conflict prevention and peace-building.
Launched this week in Brussels, the initiative on land and natural resource conflict prevention includes a series of guidance notes, training materials and an online learning tool covering four themes: land, extractive industries, environmental scarcity, and capacity development for managing land and natural resources.
In the coming year, the training programme will be rolled out in four pilot countries - Timor L’Este, Liberia, Peru and Guinea.
The programme was developed over two years by the EU and a consortium of six UN agencies: UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN-HABITAT, the Department for Political Affairs (DPA), the Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the Peace-building Support Office (PBSO).
Recognising the importance of the initiative, Mr. Richard Wright, Director of the European Commission’s Crisis Platform said: "Well managed resources can play a clear role in post-conflict peace-building".
Speaking at the launch in Brussels, Mr. Jordan Ryan, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP's Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, said: "We all need to tackle this issue as a priority before natural resource disputes blow up and prevent populations from accessing the peace they deserve".
"As the global population continues to rise, and the demand for resources continues to grow, there is significant potential for conflicts over natural resources to intensify in the coming decades," Christophe Bouvier, UNEP's Regional Director for Europe warned the gathering.
“With increasingly international attention focused on land and natural resource-related conflicts comes the need for a more coordinated and coherent response from the entire UN system. This initiative is an important example of the ‘One UN’ approach at the global level,” said Mr. Szilard Fricska, Coordinator of UN-HABITAT’s Human Settlements and Crisis Programme.