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Environment and Security: The Case of The Southern Caucasus

22 Oct 2004

Environmental degradation and access to natural resources could deepen contention in areas of existing conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent regions of Azerbaijan.

TBILISI 22 October 2004 – Environmental degradation and access to natural resources could deepen contention in areas of existing conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent regions of Azerbaijan.

According to a new report released in Tbilisi today, the militarized situation also hampers waste management and disposal, and the maintenance and renovation of irrigation and hydroelectric dams, constraining economic growth.

The report, “Environment and Security: Transforming Risks into Cooperation - The Case of the Southern Caucasus,” was prepared by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). It looks at both the negative impacts of conflict in the region as well as the opportunities environmental issues present for co-operation and confidence building.

“The assessment demonstrated that in the worst case, environmental stress and change could undermine security in the three South Caucasian countries,” said Frits Schlingemann, Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe. “However, sound environmental management and technical co-operation could also be a means for strengthening security while promoting sustainable development if the three governments would decide to do so.”

Access to natural resources in areas of conflict, management of cross-border environmental problems and the rapid development of the capital cities of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are some of the concerns highlighted in the new report, part of a wider effort called the Environment and Security (ENVSEC) Initiative.

This initiative, jointly run by OSCE, UNEP and UNDP, assesses and monitors environment and security linkages. It also supports capacity building and institutional development, as well as the integration of environmental and security concerns and priorities into international and national policy-making. Other areas covered by ENVSEC include South Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

This latest ENVSEC report highlights three common areas of concern for the South Caucasian countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia:

· Environmental degradation and access to natural resources in areas of conflict

· Management of cross-border environmental concerns including cross-boarder water resources, natural hazards, and industrial and military legacies.

· Population growth and rapid development in capital cities.

Among the findings, it notes that the quality and mechanisms for sharing transboundary water resources – both surface and underground and including the Caspian and Black Seas– are key concerns for all three countries.

Also, that the disposal of abandoned Soviet weapons, chemicals and reclamation of contaminated lands are important challenges for the Southern Caucasus countries.

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

“In our time we are facing a variety of non-traditional threats to security posed by socio-economic and environmental issues, said Ambassador Roy Reeve, Head of the OSCE Mission to Georgia. “The OSCE, as a security organisation, has a duty to identify these threats and report on them to our participating states. The ENVSEC Initiative and the recent Caucasus report is assisting us in fulfilling this mandate.”

Note to journalists

The report will be launched in Tbilisi on 22 October following a meeting of environment ministers from the Central and East European region.

For more information please contact: Martha E Freeman, Spokesperson, OSCE Mission to Georgia Press and Public Information Office, Tel: (+995-32) 91 06 10 ext 180, Mob: (+995 99) 92 25 28, email: po-ge@osce.org Robert Bisset, UNEP Spokesperson in Europe on tel: +33 1 4437 76 13, Mobile: +33 6 2272 5842, email: robert.bisset@unep.fr Or, Keti Ghioshivilli, UNDP Georgia, Tel: +995 99 53 22 68, email: keti.ghioshvili@undp.org

Joint OSCE/UNEP/UNDP News Release

For information only. Not an official record

Status: Completed

Type: Partner Publications

Year of publication: 2004

Tags: Armenia Caucasus natural resources report Azerbaijan Georgia environment and security

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