Welcome to the United Nations

Environmental impact and sustainability

  • UNAMID staff (civilian, military and police) commemorate the World Environment Day planting trees at the UNAMID headquarters in El Fasher.
    UN Photo/UNAMID/Albert Gonzalez Farran
We recognize the potential damage that our camps and operations can have on the environment, as well as on the local economy and on relations with host communities.

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 Chad, where water is a scarce resource, the local community may 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. This fits into the wider UN Secretary General’s Greening the Blue initiative.

Our approach

“Ensuring environmental sustainability” is the seventh Millennium Development Goal. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Field Support (DFS) are working towards these goals and wish to lead by example in the countries in which we operate.

We acknowledge that our current environmental footprint is significant, representing 56% of the 2008 total UN-wide greenhouse gas emissions footprint. It will take several years to change our practices to reduce our emissions, and to reduce our direct impact on the ground by improving water and waste management.

Greening the Blue Helmets

DPKO and DFS are active members of the UN-wide working group on sustainability management, and we promote Greening the Blue which is the official UN campaign to make a more sustainable United Nations. We have also partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to take advantage of their long-time expertise in to the field.

Since June 2009, DPKO and DFS have a dedicated Environmental Policy for UN Field Missions. It covers key areas such as waste, energy, water, hazardous substances, wild animals and plants and cultural and historical resources management.

Our approach is to mainstream the environment in all operational activities during the life-cycle of a peacekeeping operation. Planning and mission staff involvement is therefore key.

We also integrated environmental considerations into our new Global Field Support Strategy [A/64/633], with the aim to improve:

  • The health, safety and security of both UN staff and surrounding local communities;
  • The cost-effectiveness of our operations, through inter alia, prevention of costly remediation works.

Environmental sustainability, unlike other crosscutting issues managed by field missions (such as gender or HIV/AIDS), does not have a specific Security Council resolution.