United Nations Peace Operations are working in some of the world's most insecure areas, where good environmental practices is hard to achieve. Yet, the implications of underperformance are serious, particularly in light of the vulnerability of the ecosystems and societies to which these UN operations are deployed. Learn about the important work of Environmental Affairs Officers to minimize the ecological footprints UN Peace Operations make around the world.
The urgent deployment of thousands of civilian, police and military personnel requires a very large amount of logistical support. Often the countries in which peacekeeping personnel operate have very little infrastructure. All these UN people produce liquid and solid waste which, if not treated and disposed properly, can have an impact on the local environment. Peacekeeping missions that are temporary and deployed in remote areas often generate their own power and use aircraft that consume a lot of fuel, emit greenhouse gases and possibly cause some soil pollution. In some areas like Darfur or the North of Mali, where water is a scarce resource, the local community may also see the UN mission as a resource competitor.
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Field Support (DFS) recognize this potential damage and as a result have jointly developed an overarching policy to deal with environmental issues, which fits into the wider UN Secretary General’s Greening the Blue initiative. DFS also recently released an Environment Strategy, which establishes a vision for environmental performance that DFS will strive to achieve by 2023 in five different pillars: energy, water and wastewater, solid waste, wider impact and environmental management system.
In Peace Operations around the world, the Environmental Unit, which belongs to the Mission Support component, is responsible for coordinating the compliance of the Environmental Policy and the implementation of the Strategy. The Environmental Unit is generally composed of one or several Environmental Affairs Officers (Professionnal staff, UNVs and National staff).
As of March 2017, in total, more than 35 environmental positions exist in the following missions: MINURSO, MINUSCA, MINUSMA, MINUSTAH, MONUSCO, ONUCI, UNAMA, UNAMID, UNIFIL, UNMIK, UNMIL, UNMISS and UNSOS.
The Environmental Affairs Officer establishes, implements, manages, monitors the DFS Environmental Management System (EMS) at mission level. The duties may include managing the unit, drafting the mission environmental guidance documents, producing baselines, establishing and managing a mission-wide Environmental Action Plan, undertaking environmental inspections, training mission personnel on environmental matters, liaising and coordinating with host nation officials and other UN and NGO organisations in the mission area, as well as producing relevant reports and data on the mission’s environment status.
Previous experience in the field of environmental management is required and project planning is highly desirable.
For more information, please check the following online website.
For civilians, working for UN Peacekeeping is a rewarding experience and an amazing career path very similar to serving in your country’s own foreign and diplomatic service. UN Peacekeeping civilians come from all the 193 Member States of the United Nations. The Organisation values diversity and recruits from a broad range of backgrounds so that the UN benefits from fresh experiences and perspectives. When serving the UN, you could work at the UN Headquarters in New York, at one of the Department’s regional hubs or most commonly at one of the field Peacekeeping Operations or Special Political Missions. In line with General Assembly and Security Council policies, DFS especially encourages talented and qualified women to apply and join the Organisation.
Photo: A woman pushes the Water Rollers in El Fasher (North Darfur). 31 January 2011. The hippo roller, with its large drum capacity (usually 75 liters), frees women and children from having to spend a large portion of every day dedicated to collecting water for their households. UNAMID (African Union and United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur), in contribution of the development and early recovery, is distributing 30,000 rollers to returnee villages across Darfur with limited access to water resources. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID, Flickr CC