Historical archive

Environment - basis for peace and strategy for development

Historical archive

Published under: Regjeringen Bondevik II

Publisher Miljøverndepartementet

Opening address by Mr Knut Arild Hareide, Minister of Environment. "Environment and Security - Perspectives on the role of environment in conflict and peace-building".

Opening address by Mr Knut Arild Hareide, Minister of Environment. "Environment and Security - Perspectives on the role of environment in conflict and peace-building". Seminar arranged by the Ministry of Environment, Oslo, 8. December 2004

Environment - basis for peace and strategy for development

Dear friends,

Welcome to this seminar, two days before the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Dr. Wangari Maathai, Kenya's deputy environment minister.

Like many others I have been deeply inspired by Dr. Maathai. She is the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to have used environment as a means of fighting social and political oppression.

Wangari Maathai started out planting trees.

Trees are nature's insurance against droughts, landslides and climate change.

Trees are at the same time people's insurance against poverty and hunger.

Wangari Maathai ended up planting hope.

Her Green Belt Movement has led to empowerment and development of local communities all over Africa. She has for many years also been a source of inspiration outside of Africa.


It was the Nobel Peace Prize 2004 that inspired the Government to hold this seminar on environment and security in a sustainable development context.

There are many ways of building peace. Peace and security are dynamic concepts. The choices of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee have therefore caused lively debate on more than one occasion.

This seminar will explore some of the linkages between peace, development and environment.

Only by increasing our understanding of these linkages can we make better peace policies - better development policies - and better environmental policies.

Only in this way can we meet what the United Nations high-level panel calls the "new threats and security concerns" facing the international community today.


In today's world, security means more than securing borders from external attacks.

Today's threats to peace and stability come from poverty, environmental pressures, population movements, the spread of diseases and international terrorism.

Today we do not only speak of state security. There is also human security.

This is a type of security that puts people rather than territories at the centre.

It is a type of security that is won with sustainable development - rather than with weapons and arms.

If being secure also means to have food, water, shelter, health and education - then over one billion people do not live in security today.


Poverty eradication continues to be the fundamental challenge of our time.

There can be no lasting development unless we maintain environmental quality and improve degraded environments.

On the one hand, poverty and poor governance takes a hard toll on the environment.

Poverty has a high cost in terms of unregulated or illegal harvesting - and uncontrolled pollution to air, water and soils.

On the other hand, environmental stress causes or increases poverty.

Climate change is a case in point. Poor people that depend on nature for their survival are typically the first victims of higher temperatures and its effects on land and water.


Secretary General Kofi Annan has stated that "safeguarding the environment is one of the foundations of peace and security".

I am also glad that the United Nations Environment Programme – UNEP - has done good work on environment in conflict-prevention and peace building.

During our seminar we will hear more about how the environment can be a factor in war and peace.

In times of conflict, short-term humanitarian needs must of course always come first.

Still, it cannot be ignored that conflict, warfare and refugee flows also carry serious environmental costs.

Environment should therefore be a key element of post-conflict reconstruction.

I am also convinced that resource management projects can play a key role in post-conflict reconciliation - and in confidence building at the local level.

Unfortunately, the environment can also be a factor that causes or amplifies conflict.

A shortage of natural resources such as safe drinking water can have dramatic consequences.

Having plenty of natural resources might not always be a blessing either. Unless there is good governance, resources such as oil and diamonds can enrich corrupt leaders or rebel groups instead of lifting people out of poverty.

These challenges - whether there be too much or too little natural resources – are most difficult to handle in weak states with inefficient markets and inadequate human capital.

We therefore need to build strong societies to fight poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and other threats to human security.


There are many roads to peace. We must track them down and we must follow them all.

As environment minister, I am committed to making environmental policies that are as relevant as possible. By promoting sound environmental management, we are also promoting lasting peace and development.

There can be no lasting peace unless we also make peace with nature.

Dr. Wangari Maathai helped build peace through local environment initiatives.

I welcome the Nobel Peace Prize Committee's recognition of Dr. Wangari Maathai - and see this as a significant milestone in our efforts for sustainable and peaceful development.

Thank you for your attention