Crisis, including complex emergencies, war and natural disasters, create high-stakes choices for impacted communities, governments, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) regarding environmental governance and natural resource management. If managed properly, natural resources and environmental protection are critical elements of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and can be important foundations for the recovery of sustainable lives and livelihoods. If resources and the environment are managed poorly, however, future vulnerability to both conflict and disaster may be enhanced. Prospects for sustainable recovery depend on choices made in the earliest days of post-conflict or post-disaster initiatives, and change as the stages of recovery, reconstruction, and redevelopment proceed.

c Ronald Petocz/WWF-Canon

Transmigration settlement in West Papua, Indonesia
c Ronald Petocz/WWF-Canon

The environment is often not viewed as an urgent priority in the immediate wake of war or disaster, given the vast human needs and recovery challenges triggered by these events. A growing body of research and case documentation suggests, however, that effective natural-resource and environmental management in the wake of such events may be an important determinant of the long term prospects for successful recovery and future protection. Moreover, in settings of social tension and mistrust, conflict-sensitive environmental initiatives may serve as a peacebuilding and recovery tool.

American University and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have launched a collaborative initiative with three core objectives. First, we are bringing together practitioners with experience on the links among environment, postconflict/postdisaster response, and peacebuilding, to pool currently fragmented knowledge and identify better practices. We are building a consortium that brings together key actors from three types of organizations: first responders, conservations groups, and crisis-management/peacebuilding organizations—each of which has a different foundation of experience with these linkages.

Girl in Angola refugee camp c Jo Benn/WWF-Canon

Girl in Angola refugee camp
c Jo Benn/WWF-Cano


Second, we are using the consortium and the network it provides to generate and disseminate a series of products and approaches—including documented case studies and a collaborative network with dedicated website—that make it possible for practitioners to incorporate sustainability considerations more fully and effectively in post-conflict and post-disaster work.

Third, we are laying the foundation for developing new tools and a training of trainers (TOT) program integrating environmental sustainability into disaster and crisis management, with potential linkage to future certification initiatives.

Initial funding for this initiative has been provided by the United States Institute for Peace and American University’s School of International Service. Project events include a series of workshops with individuals from lead organizations in the fields of humanitarian action, the environment, and conflict transformation (ongoing); a curriculum development and training-module workshop (April 2014); a launch of the dedicated web site (June 2014); and other learning opportunities.

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