BAKU: Environmental security initiative launched in S. Caucasus

[May 19, 2004, 14:35:03]

Azer Tag, Azerbaijan State Info Agency
May 19 2004

Workshops held May 10-18 in Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.
Eliminating environmental problems helps to ease political tensions:
that is the basic idea behind a new initiative launched in the
Southern Caucasus region by the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP)
and the U.N. Development Program (UNDP).

An initiative focusing on the links between environmental problems
and security was launched this week with national events in Georgia
and Azerbaijan.

Through the Environmental Security Initiative, the OSCE, the United
Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the UN Development Program
(UNDP) aim to identify cases in which environmental degradation
may pose threats to human security and contribute to instability,
and suggest action to deal with them.

The initiative began on 10 May in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, with
two days of consultations among government officials, non-governmental
organizations and local and international experts. They discussed
key environmental risk factors that have the potential to hamper
security in Armenia.

The workshops continued on 14 and 15 May in Tbilisi, Georgia. They
focused on the role of environmental security in economic growth and
poverty reduction in Georgia, both greatly dependent on the quality
and quantity of existing natural resources in the country.

Concluding the series, a workshop in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 17 and 18 May
focused on principal environmental concerns with security implications
in the country, including trans-boundary water pollution and freshwater
quality as well as contamination of the Caspian Sea and deforestation.

The main idea behind the Environment and Security Initiative, launched
in 2002, is that eliminating environmental problems helps to ease
political tensions. In order to achieve this, the Initiative seeks to:

Raise awareness of environmental risks and their impact on security;

Engage with government and non-government groups to identify both risks
posed by environmental change and opportunities for trans-boundary
co-operation to promote sustainable development, peace and stability;

Map risks, as well as needs and opportunities, for environmental
co-operation to improve sustainable resource management, crisis
prevention and peace promotion;

Develop and implement projects to reduce risks identified.

National consultations are considered to be a key element of the
Initiative as they generate information on specific problems that
can then be addressed through individual projects.