UN: Environmental woes a cause of Sudan conflict

Lasting peace in Sudan will not be possible unless the fractious country takes serious steps to address alarming environmental woes, said a United Nations report published on Friday.

Decades of war have devastated Africa’s largest country and fresh competition for its resources continue to fuel conflict, the report by the UN Environment Programme said.

”Long-term peace in the region will not be possible unless these underlying and closely linked environmental and livelihood issues are resolved,” it said.

In its report, entitled Sudan post-conflict environmental assessment, the UN agency stressed that desertification and land degradation had been a key source of conflict in impoverished Darfur.

”Northern Darfur — where exponential population growth and related environmental stress have created the conditions for conflicts to be triggered and sustained by political, tribal or ethnic differences — can be considered a tragic example of the social breakdown that can result from ecological collapse,” the UN said.

The conflict in Sudan’s parched western region of Darfur erupted in February 2003 when rebel groups complaining of marginalisation and demanding a greater share of the country’s resources took up arms.

According to the UN, the Darfur conflict has left about 200 000 people dead. A bitter two-decade long north-south civil war ended in January 2005, after killing an estimated 1,5-million people.

The report identified a string of critical issues, such as population displacement, desertification, land degradation, deforestation, water projects, chaotic urbanisation and pollution from the country’s booming oil industry.

Sudan is home to the world’s largest population of displaced people, with more than one million who fled conflict in Darfur and almost every other part of the country in recent years.

”The scale of displacement and the particular vulnerability of the dry northern Sudanese environment may make this the most significant case of its type worldwide,” the report said.

The report also said an estimated 50km to 200km southward drift of the boundary between semi-desert and desert as well as a sharp decline in precipitation due to climate change is fuelling the rivalry between pastoralist and farming communities.

”Investment in environmental management, financed by the international community and from the country’s emerging boom in oil and gas exports, will be a vital part of the peace building effort,” the report says, according to the UN.

UN Under Secretary General and environmental programme executive director Achim Steiner warned in the statement that the linkage between the environmental crisis and lasting instability in Sudan may be a harbinger of problems to come in other countries.

”Sudan’s tragedy is not just the tragedy of one country in Africa — it is a window to a wider world underlining how issues such as uncontrolled depletion of natural resources like soils and forests allied to impacts like climate change can destabilise communities, even entire nations,” he said. — Sapa-AFP

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be firestarter of global economic...

Developed countries could do much to help counterparts in the developing world weather the current storm

A female condom can take sexual pleasure to new heights

Internal condoms not only offer protection, they increase the user’s control and the rings tickle the clitoris and penis

Zuma corruption trial on hold as court waits for word...

The Pietermaritzburg high court was surprised by the delay in Bloemfontein but said it would likely not be the last

SA’s endemic corruption requires a ‘biting’ response

Beneficial ownership transparency (BOT) can help tackle corruption, reduce investment risk and improve national and global governance, but implementation remains ‘a sad story’

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…