Sunday, June 10, 2007

Environment and Peace

Reported in the news this last week was the Global Peace Index (GPI). You can find the index at its website.

Generally, I am not a big fan of these indexes (mainly because such indexes are sensitive to weighting factors used). What is usually more interesting is how countries rate in the individual criteria. In this case 24 criteria were used, including: number of external and internal conflicts, number of deaths due to conflicts, number of armed forces, defense spending as percent GDP, arms import and export, size of police forces, prison population, contribution to peacekeeping forces, level of crime, and respect of human rights. I think the criteria used were very well selected.

What is even more interesting is the discussion paper on the GPI. It gives a emphasis to the link between environment and peace. To quote the Executive Summary:

The major challenges facing humanity today are global – climate change, accessible fresh water, ever decreasing bio-diversity and over population. These problems call for global solutions and these solutions will require co-operation on a global scale unparalleled in history. Peace is the essential prerequisite to create the environment to achieve the levels of co-operation necessary.


The paper points out that the countries with the best GPI also have the best environmental performance, better than countries with higher per capita income.

The report points out that "Maintaining the health of ecosystems and biodiversity, and promoting sustainable agriculture and economic growth, reduces the risk of state collapse and with it the potential for conflict." It further notes that increased use of resources can lead to potential conflicts between nations. It specifically mentions two cases: water - especially since many water sources cross international borders, and depletion of resources due to pressures from overpopulation.

The report further emphasizes that cooperation between countries is necessary to solve many environmental problems. Its statement in this respect on climate change is especially poignant with the problems of Kyoto: "Co-operative and inclusive ways of managing global resources, economies and lifestyles will help to alleviate the potential for conflict that climate change could create. It is clear that the impacts of climate change can be mitigated or greatly varied depending on the levels of co-operation that nations can achieve and the strength of our global institutions."

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