From: OSCE/UNEP/UNDP
Published October 22, 2004 09:32 AM

Transforming Risks into Cooperation

New Report Outlines Environment and Security Threats and Opportunities for the Southern Caucasus Region


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 militarised 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 Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).


It looks at both the negative impacts of conflict in the region as well as the opportunities environmental issues present for cooperation 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 cooperation 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. See http://www.envsec.org


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-border water resources, natural hazards, and industrial and military legacies; and * 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 UNDP Administrator, and 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 organization, has a duty to identify these threats and report on them to our participating States. The ENVSEC Initiative and the recent Caucasus report are 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.


The report can be downloaded from the ENVSEC web site at http://www.envsec.org


For more information, please contact: Martha E. Freeman, Spokesperson, OSCE Mission to Georgia, Press and Public Information Office, Tel: +995-32-91-0610 ext 180, Mobile: +995 99-92-2528, e-mail: po-ge@osce.org; Robert Bisset, UNEP Spokesperson in Europe, on tel: +33-1-4437-7613, Mobile: +33-6-2272-5842, e-mail: robert.bisset@unep.fr; or, Keti Ghioshivilli, UNDP Georgia, Tel: +995-99-53-2268, e-mail: keti.ghioshvili@undp.org


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