TBILISI: Environmental, socio-economic issues threaten Caucasus

Environmental, socio-economic issues threaten Caucasus

The Messenger, Georgia
26 Oct. 2004

Joint UN-OSCE report says South Caucasus can transform potential
dangers into areas of co-operation
Compiled by Keti Sikharulidze

In a new report on the environment and security, analysts warn
that non-traditional environmental and socio-economic threats could
exacerbate existing conflicts in the Caucuses.

The report, entitled ‘Environment and Security: Transforming risks
into co-operation’ and supported by both the UN and the OSCE, was
released at the start of the conference of Eastern European, Caucasus
and Central Asian Environment Ministers October 22.

The report is part of a wider effort called the Environment and
Security (ENVSEC) initiative, jointly run by the OSCE, the UN
Development Programme (UNDP) and Environment Programme (UNEP), and
identifies key environmental issues that may effect security in the
Southern Caucasus.

In its press release, ENVSEC states that the report highlights three
common areas of concern, either negatively as sources of potential
conflict or positively as opportunities for co-operation and confidence
building, for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

The three areas are environmental degradation and access to
natural resources in areas of conflict; management of cross-border
environmental concerns, such as water resources, natural hazards,
and industrial and military legacies; and population growth and rapid
development in capital cities.

The Environment Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia were
invited to discuss the report with the representatives of partner
countries and agencies at the launch event, after which was held a
regional conference of Eastern European, Caucasus and Central Asian
Environment Ministers.

“The Southern Caucasus countries are confronted by similar social,
political and economic transformation that are altering century-old
relationships within and between them, and shaping their development.
Each of these transformation has an impact on, and could be effected
by, the state of the natural environment,” said Director of UNDP
Regional Bureau or Europe and the CIS Kalman Mizsei.

Director of UNEP’s European office Frits Schlingemann added this could
pose a threat to stability in the region, saying that environmental
stress and change could undermine security in the three South Caucasian

Co-coordinator for OSCE economic and environmental activities
Marcin Swecicki agreed, saying that “today we face a variety of
non-traditional threats to security, posed by socio-economic and
environment issues.”

“However,” Schlingemann added, “sound environmental management and
technical co-operation could also be a means for strengthening security
while promoting sustainable development if three governments decided
to do so.”

The ENVSEC Initiative builds on the combined strengths and field
presence of the lead organizations in three main areas: assessment and
monitoring of environment and security linkages; capacity building and
institutional development; and integration of environment and security
concerns and priorities in international and national policy-making.