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‘Seeds for peace’: can development biodiversity nurture and sustain ecopeaceability?

What is at stake?         

Sustainable development (SD) thrives best in societies that are peaceful and inclusive. In place of peace, conflict flourishes. This awareness is constantly pushing nations, institutions and communities to (re)formulate, cooperate and act on policy priorities to achieve new peace deals or to sustain existing peace. Almost every nation hates conflict because it displaces or kills people or causes forced migration. In conflict situations, it fertilizes the destruction of biodiversity and natural wealth as investigated[1] in Sierra Leone and encountered by the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada in DRC – the ‘only region where four species of great ape (both species of gorilla and chimpanzee) co-occur naturally’.

Most often conflict emits new or complicates inverse ingredients such as poverty and hunger to distort the path to sustainability. So for me, conflict forms one of the ‘hidden threats to sustainability’ disclosed in the 2015 State of the World[2] by The Worldwatch Institute.

Figure 1: The meaning of ecopeaceability

Figure 1: The meaning of ecopeaceability

All conflicts are dynamic and, in all, people are very much interested in interventions that foster excellent cordial relations to seed peace than otherwise. This is why this text stimulates rethinking and how redesigning “development biodiversity” (see Figure 1) facility can positively do billion things for people and nature, especially in nurturing ecopeace in ex-urban areas or cityscapes.

 

Uncharacteristically mixed conflicts

Within one and half decades of the 21st century, varied conflict situations had been identified in West African countries[3,4,5] and at community levels, including Bawku[6] in Ghana.  Even before then, Bening[7] clearly showed there was ‘conflict between Kusasi and Mamprusi in the Bawku [Municipality]… over land and chieftaincy’, which caused ‘destruction to life and property…’ As Awedoba and the colleagues similarly asserted, the ‘losses in terms of life and property between the two sides [i.e. Kusasis and Mamprusis] are considerable…[8]’. The conflict in Bawku received critical attention because of the geodevelopment importance of the municipal area for regional integration, trade, organic agri-industralisation and economic development. Conflict had also affected life in Alavanyo and Nkonya communities in eastern Ghana and the interventions to advance development will not be unwanted in these areas.

Basically, conflict is not about civic uneasiness or armed confrontations. It extends far from that to include the damaging relationships among humans, wildlife and environment. Although a well-framed development biodiversity can cultivate ecopeace to grow in every conflict situation, it best fits the fixing of human-environment conflicts. In Africa, Asia and Middle East, various forms of minor and extreme human-environmental conflicts prevail and are affecting good health, peace and safety. For instance, exactly 42 months ago, the United Nations University – Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) hosted a workshop at Dodowa to deliberate on ‘National and transboundary water resources management in Africa’. One of the knowledge products from the workshop generally stated that ‘… land use practices, like mining, are causing erosion of river banks and siltation in river basins, posing a threat to water quality’[9]. Yankson (2010[10]) found out how 14 communities inhabited by over 30,000 were displaced between 1990 and 1998 in the Wassa West District alone due to mining. An investigation revealed that mining had caused severe destructions to land resources in Sierra Leone (Brown and Crawford, 2012).

Aning and Atta-Asamoah (2011:23) noted elsewhere that ‘currently, rivers in West Africa discharge more than 40 [ per cent] less than they discharged in the 1970s.’ And, cautioned that the ‘Niger and Volta basins could then become possible flashpoints for inter-state tensions… The Niger River, for instance, currently provides water for about 10 countries; if it loses water and begins to run dry, critical security issues could emerge…’

In the peripheries and inner zones, cities are at conflict with nature as well – thanks to emerging innovative designs. Every day, urban residents living in savanna and non-savanna countries are in fierce battle for living spaces. Cities like Accra, Nairobi, Windhoek, Dar es Salaam, Harare and Lagos are working to transform open spaces to satisfy residential, industrial and public needs thereby partially losing biodiversity assets in the cities. Civil protests against sitting of landfills and decongestion had occurred. With this, I join in re-asking ‘how does urbanization affect biodiversity?’ by ECOLOGICA.

 

Hepta-polyconnectedness to SDGs

According to the UNESCO, ‘biological diversity or biodiversity, is manifested at all levels of organization (genes, species, ecosystems and landscapes) and is seen in all forms of life, habitats and ecosystems (tropical forests, oceans and seas, savannah ecosystems, wetlands, drylands, mountains, etc.)’. Biodiversity is the greenspot of the planet. For every aspect of human life, every aspect of biodiversity is vital. Yet, the conviction is that every aspect of biodiversity is not immune from extinction meaning that destroying biodiversity will harm humanity in the short or long-run.

On the basis of the Living Planet Index’s record, biodiversity was in the negative globally from 1970 to 2010 – terrestrial species (-39 per cent), freshwater species (-76 per cent) and marine species (-39 per cent). Today, has the decline of biodiversity ceased? From the perspective of urban landscapes, Matt Palmer’s article on ‘Discovering urban biodiversity’ is not in affirmative to this question. The World Bank would not agree either. The international governing institution refers to the issue as the ‘world’s biodiversity is in trouble.’ What is now explicit to us is that whether biodiversity is increasing or decreasing it remains life’s “spinal cord”. And, for Helen Clark, ‘biodiversity underpins sustainable development’. As result of joint efforts, the UK Department for International Development and UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre published a brief masterpiece entitled: ‘We believe in a world where biodiversity counts’ a year ago to emphasize the positive connections of ‘biodiversity, carbon storage and other ecosystems’ and the ultimate links to SD. I am careful not to construct a view that biodiversity is everything a person needs, particularly, when living close to or within national reserves, parks, ramsar sites and forests may not always translates into improved lives and pedaling out of income difficulties.

By an informal measure of water in ‘2,722,000 square miles’ of the Amazon River, Cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, Coffee in Kenya, traditional medicine in Haiti, Tata tyre in India and Paper fiber in Indonesia, at Seedinglives, the direct and indirect links of development biodiversity to nearly all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)[11] are strongly hepta-polyconnected.

Figure 2: SDGs. Adapted from Globalgoals.org with permission.

Figure 2: SDGs. Adapted from Globalgoals.org with permission.

However, the degree of connectedness varies from SDGs #14 and 15# to that of SDGs #17 or 16. This suggests if you are mitigating climate change, mediating land degradation and soil salinity, reversing deserts, putting fresh diets on the table and teaching children to keep in touch with nature, you cannot ignore biodiversity. Overlooking biodiversity issues leads to inviting drought, energy deficits and hunger as manure for cultivating conflict instead of ecopeace. It is possible to read infographic representation and get better understanding of the SDGs from the Globalgoals.org, Euractiv.com, Whygreeneconomy.org and Cdkn.org (see Figure 2). The Globalgoal.org presents reservoir of useful information for children, young people and adults alike. After this week, when world leaders, organisations and countries meet to endorse the SDGs, the fundamental question of what next begins – action, practice and result. I think that ensuring collective (re)design, finance and practice of tailored SDGs interventions to efficiently manage development biodiversity is what will matter in determining the extent to which it can significantly impact on enhancing environmental sustainability, food security and ecopeace as envisioned in the SDGs.

 

The benefits beyond ecopeace

Biodiversity is not a new theme. During this year’s International Day of Biodiversity, the Food Tank listed some institutions and programmes as ‘Protectors of Biodiversity’ due to their roles in working to ‘protect the planet’s biodiversity’ to continue furnishing its benefits. The countless benefits associated with biodiversity are catalogued elsewhere. For example, the Convention on Biodiversity agrees to how it can reduce poverty. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) discovers the use of over ‘70,000 plant species in traditional or modern medicine’. Although biodiversity exists for centuries, ‘development biodiversity’ has not been specifically applied to promote “ecopeace” having a firm grounding, practising and element of adopting sustainability science, especially in the early 1940s.  One of the best contemporary initiatives appears to be coming from the EcoPeace Middle East. In the Peruvian Amazon, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) had also incorporated ‘conflict-sensitive management strategies’ into conservation programming. Similarly, Conservation International is leading other local partners in Colombia to integrate ‘conflict-sensitivity’ into the implementation of conservation activities.

Besides the direct benefits, biodiversity projects tend to introduce alternative livelihoods as the Fauna and Flora International and partners are doing by ‘building brighter futures for communities in the DRC’. The Biodiversity International introduced ‘technologies that benefit and improve the lives of banana farmers’ in the Philippines. The contributions of many of these non-governmental organizations and their partner government institutions and communities are helping to limit the rate of biodiversity loss; and are emitting traits of social capital essential for ecopeace-building. The achievements and field feedbacks coming from biodiversity activities suggest why I concur with the notion that the real benefits the global society can derive from biodiversity beyond ecopeace will require ‘sacrifice from us all, not only in financial terms (e.g. higher taxes and foregone profits) but also in terms of personal risk, material losses, freedom of action or convenience[12]’.

 

Fostering policy solutions

The connections between environmental issues and conflict are many and complex. Environmental factors themselves are rarely, if ever, the sole cause of violence.’ IISD

The complexity of human-environment conflict is such that prescribing and predicting solution is not a good thing in practice. Why? The reason is that nobody knows the exact scale of, where and how conflict can occur. So, why will someone think, with a certainty, that ecopeace can be achieved ‘out of the blue’? Tackling the underlying issues of socio-cultural divisions and developing institutions to provide effective services for people to co-exist and enhance ways the institutions are governed, leadership is responsive to different interests, reflecting in decision-making processes that are participatory and inclusive, can offer some hope. People perceived as rivals get re-united through engaging in dialogues, planting and watering “peace seeds” together. A careful programming of biodiversity activities to link peoples by integrating their views and resources from within and outside of the community (see Figure 3) will generate stronger social relations, trust, forgiving spirit and confidence to boost ecopeace and its sustainability. Another thing that makes it a plus for utilizing development biodiversity to spawn ecopeace is its peculiarly receptive nature to harness solutions from variety of disciplines – technology, law, education, geography, agriculture, communication, economics and sustainability science to achieve a measurable result.

Figure 3: Solution path for ecopeaceability

Figure 3: Solution path for ecopeaceability

The development biodiversity approach in making ecopeace will definitely differ from rural areas to cities so is from developing countries’ context to that of developed countries. But, since the approach involves humans then the application of basic norms and moral sensitivity will likely be same. As I indicated earlier, the cause and scale of each conflict vary and the solution will too. This demands why development biodiversity must be centred on inclusiveness and sustainability ethics to give spaces for refining ideas, tools and new skills to suit a given object. Formulating policy interventions to promote ecopeace need to recognise bringing people along because when ecopeace is finally attained, other multiple benefits will come out. How will the benefits be shared to prevent biodiversity facility itself from breeding conflict? Ethical and inclusive principles must be adopted to guide sustainability decisions to make sure end-benefits reach beneficiaries. In all these, and, as the world coincidentally celebrates International Day of Peace today, it is all-important to appreciate that financing development biodiversity is financing food, health, equality and water for ecopeace of the future.

[1] Brown, O. and Crawford A., 2012. Conservation and peacebuilding.January 2012. IISD, Canada. http://www.iisd.org/sites/default/files/pdf/2012/iisd_conservation_in_Sierra_Leone.pdf [Accessed on 20.09.2015].

[2] The Worldwatch Institute, 2015. The state of the world 2015: confronting hidden threats to sustainability. Island Press, Washington, USA.

[3] Oruwari, Y., 2005. Taking regionalism a step further: the need to involve the household in the development of the West Africa Region. In: Fawole, W.A. and Ukeje, C., (eds.) The crisis of the state and regionalism in West Africa. CODESRIA: Senegal. pp 161-174.

[4] Aning, K. and Atta-Asamoah, A., 2011. Demography, environment and conflict in West Africa. KAIPTC Occasional Paper No. 34. http://www.kaiptc.org/Publications/Occasional-Papers/Documents/Occasional-Paper-34-Aning-and-Asamoah.aspx. [Accessed on 16.09.2015].

[5] UNDP, 2011. The conflict in Côte d’Ivoire and its effect on West African countries: a perspective from the ground. Regional Bureau for Africa. http://www.undp.org/content/dam/rba/docs/Issue%20Briefs/The%20Conflict%20in%20Cote%20d’Ivoire%20and%20its%20Effect%20on%20West%20African%20Countries%20a%20Perspective%20from%20the%20Ground.pdf. [Accessed on 16.09.2015].

[6] Bawku is one of the major municipal capitals in northern Ghana that has direct boundary links to the south-eastern Burkina Faso and north-western Togo, thus, an enclave of three members of the ECOWAS.

[7] Bening R. B., 1999. Ghana: regional boundaries and national integration. Ghana Universities Press: Accra. pp xii+371.

[8] Awedoba A. K.; Mahama B. S.; Kuuire S. M. A. and Longi, F., 2011. An ethnographic study of northern Ghanaian conflicts: towards a sustainable peace. Sub-Saharan Publishers: Accra. pp xiii+321.

[9] Ansa, E.D. O.; Koomson, T. A. and Ayuk, E.T., 2012. National and transboundary water resources management in Africa. UNU-INRA Seminar Series, UNU-INRA, Accra.

[10] Yankson, P. W. K., 2010. Gold mining and corporate social responsibility in the Wassa West District, Ghana. Development in Practice 20 (3) 354-366.

[11] The UN SDGs are currently being thoughtfully refined to replace, merge or create enabling voices, institutions and conditions for the continuity of some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

[12] Linnell, J.D.C.; Rondeau, D.; Reed, D.H.; Williams, R.; Altwegg, R. l.; Raxworthy, C.J.; Austin, J.D.; Hanley, N.; Fritz, H.; Evans, D.M.; Gordon, I.J.; Reyers, B.; Redpath, S. and Pettorelli, N., 2010. Confronting the costs and conflicts associated with biodiversity. Animal Conservation 1–3.

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