Peace Parks

A "Park for Peace" is a special designation that may be applied to any of the three types of Transboundary Conservation Areas, and is dedicated to the promotion, celebration and/or commemoration of peace and cooperation (IUCN, 2015).

According to the IUCN, Parks for Peace can serve several purposes. They may celebrate the endurance of peace and the commemoration of peace in a region: for instance, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is a good example of a Park for Peace established to celebrate longstanding peaceful relations between Canada and the USA. They may also help to reinforce peace and cooperation: the Cordillera del Condor shows how transboundary conservation efforts can help foster peace and improve relationships between partners through working together. Finally, a Park for Peace could be used to promote peace at some point in future on the Korean peninsula.

These protected areas may include some different land uses within their boundaries. The three primary goals of transboundary protected areas are usually the conservation of biodiversity, socio-economic development and the promotion of a culture of peace and cooperation.

The identification and designation of Peace Parks by cooperating jurisdictions should include only those areas where the agreed management objectives explicitly recognize both a protected area and a no conflict zone.

Specific objectives of Peace Parks may include the following aspects:

Supporting long-term co-operative conservation of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and natural and cultural values across boundaries;

Promoting landscape-level ecosystem management through integrated bio- regional land-use planning and management;

Building trust, understanding, reconciliation and co-operation between and among countries, communities, agencies, and stakeholders;

Preventing and/or resolving tension, including over access to natural resources;

Promoting the resolution of armed conflict and/or reconciliation following armed conflict;

Sharing biodiversity and cultural resource management skills and experience, including co-operative research and information management;

Promoting more efficient and effective co-operative management programmes;

Promoting access to, and equitable and sustainable use of natural resources, consistent with national sovereignty; and

Enhancing the benefits of conservation and promoting benefit-sharing across boundaries.

Peace Parks' creation is a form of ecological diplomacy that is gaining prominence. “What we are trying to do is to frame environmental degradation as a common aversion mechanism for parties, which can in turn lead to cooperation. Once conflicting parties realize that a deteriorating ecology is a detriment to all sides they are more likely to co-operate. (…) The elegance of this argument is that we can also use the tools of ecological diplomacy to address conflicts, including those that have nothing to do with the environment,” explaines Saleem Ali, University of Vermont. Peace parks allow shared sovereignty of the environment, because it is based on science and can be de-politicised, can set the scene for other forms of cooperation in trickier areas such as competition for economic resources.

Ecological diplomacy is drawing together agencies from the environmental and peacebuilding spheres of the UN. Environmentally mandated platforms such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) now have specific programmes of work around peacebuilding. Conversely, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ (DPKO) mandate is being expanded, in Ali’s words, “from blue to green” — referring to DPKO’s planting of trees in post-conflict zones in places like Liberia, in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme.

“In Korea, previously damaged ecosystems have bounced back as a result of the space created by the conflict. Here we have the opportunity to facilitate peace by transforming the role of the military, for instance. What we need to do is make ecological policy more economically effective,” Saleem Ali explained. Professor Ali believes firmly that environmental scientists and educators do have a positive role to play in conflict resolution (cited by Our World).

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme