Experts review environmental security issues
On 21 and 22 November, more than 30 environmental security experts gathered in Belgium for a workshop entitled “Environmental Security Assessments: Methodologies and Practices”.
The event was organized in the framework of the Environment and Security (ENVSEC) Initiative, through which NATO is working with other international organizations to address environmental priorities that threaten security.
Representatives from NATO and other international organizations, such as the United Nations and the European Union, met with academics and national government specialists to examine ways of improving the quality and effectiveness of environmental security assessments (ESAs).
Dr Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General of NATO’s Emerging Security Challenges Division, said that NATO, as a modern security organization, has a stake in environmental security.
He said that NATO addresses security from two angles: civilian and military. While putting emphasis on non-military factors, such as the economic or environmental dimensions, the Alliance has also developed an “acquis” of military guidelines, standards and best practice on environmental security.
Dr Shea told delegates that environmental protection in military operations is a new discipline, which still needs to mature. He added that the expertise within ENVSEC would be a valuable asset in its development.
The ENVSEC Initiative collaborated with the international Institute for Environmental Security to organize the workshop, which was held in Ophain-Bois-Seigneur-Isaac, Belgium.
Helping vulnerable regions
The ENVSEC Initiative was launched in 2003 to address environmental priorities that threaten security in four vulnerable regions: South Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. NATO joined ENVSEC in 2004 and is an associate member of the management board. It also donates complete projects.
NATO funded 14 of the 68 ENVSEC projects between the initiative’s launch in 2003 and March 2009, spending nearly US$7 million. Currently, it is funding 18 of 57 ongoing projects for more than US$11 million and is evaluating possible future projects.
Some of the projects NATO has funded through its Science for Peace and Security (SPS) programme include flood risk monitoring and forecasting for the Pripyat River, to boost cooperation between Belarus and Ukraine, and cleaning up pesticides in Moldova.
On 18 November, Berlin hosted a related event, “ENVSEC Day Germany”, to raise public awareness of ENVSEC activities. It provided an opportunity for experts to exchange views and information.
"Making joint decisions on the best course of action to deal with transboundary environmental issues can be a powerful tool” for easing tensions and strengthening security, said Christophe Bouvier, ENVSEC Chair and Regional Director for Europe of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). But this must be based on objective assessments founded on sound science, he said.
On 19 November, Berlin also hosted ENVSEC’s Donors Forum. Twice yearly, donor communities meet with ENVSEC partners to evaluate current projects and consider proposals for new initiatives.