Nature and biodiversity are part of our life support system. The natural world provides resources that sustain all life on Earth including human life — from the air we breathe and the water we drink, to the food we eat and the ecosystem services that nature provides, which also help adjust to the damaging impacts of climate change. There is no substitute for all the services nature provides.
Resource scarcity has long been recognised as a threat multiplier of conflict and fragility. In all, 40 per cent of internal armed conflicts in the last 60 years have been related to natural resources. That is set to increase as the impacts of climate change are seen in water scarcity, desertification, population movements and food insecurity. Meanwhile, the cost of conflict is also felt through its environmental impact. As many as 80 per cent of all major armed conflicts in the second half of the 20th Century took place directly in biodiversity hotspots that sustain around half the world’s plants and rare species of animals.3 The 19 countries with the highest number of ecological threats are among the world’s 40 least peaceful countries including Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Chad, India and Pakistan.4
Environmental degradation puts pressure on limited resources and is already driving mass internal migration, placing further stress on communities and regions. Building resilient and secure communities is essential to prevent escalation of tensions and fragility, and this must include restoration of land ecosystems. The nature of HALO’s work means we operate in many of the most climate and conflict affected regions in the world, in areas that are often inaccessible to other organisations.
We recognise the growing link between our work and the need to help preserve biodiversity and arrest climate change. We are partnering with conservationists and other environmental experts, to address these inter-connected issues. Thanks to the generous support of a long-term family foundation donor, in 2021 we launched 13 local impact projects focused on improving and accelerating the sustainability and impact of our programmes around the world. These small projects advance ecological protection and conservation in the world’s most vulnerable settings. They provide opportunities for women and girls in conflict affected areas, and they build environmental skills for our workforce and partners through environmental master planning, training, and use of earth informatics and conservation GIS.
In El Salvador we are bringing the rigour of the minefield to the mangroves—one of the most productive and critical eco-systems on the planet. HALO is building chiampas, floating islands of mud, straw and bamboo, to plant saplings to restore the mangrove forest in an area of Jiquilisco Bay that was damaged by an earthquake in 2000. The project provides employment for at risk youth to work alongside HALO’s team. In El Salvador, lack of opportunities, gang violence and high levels of extortion put young people at risk, but providing meaningful work can help them escape the cycle of violence.
HALO is grateful to the generous support of a loyal family foundation donor which has invested in the development of these high-impact environmental projects globally.
2. ICRC. July 2020. “When Rain Turns to Dust.” Available at: https://bit.ly/climate-conflict-environment
3. ICRC. September 2020. “Guidelines on the protection of the natural environment in armed conflict.” Available at: https:// bit.ly/icrc-humanitarian-law
4. Vision of Humanity. 2021. “Ecological Threat Report.” Available at: https://bit.ly/ecological-threat-report