The environment is also MINUSTAH's business

Mon, 04/11/13

MINUSTAH makes the environment one of its priorities. As in other Peace Keeping Missions, the Environmental Compliance Unit (ECU) works to reduce the adverse impact of the Mission on Haiti’s environment. To learn more, we met Michelet Boyer, environmental officer of the ECU...

What is the role of your Unit?
The Environmental Compliance Unit is in charge of establishing and putting into practice a management system, assuring that the operation of the Mission respects Haitian and international environmental laws and regulations.

In that regard, it identifies and analyses the potential environment impact of the Mission’s operations. It assists the Direction of Mission Support to reduce risk and prevent potential negative effects, particularly on green spaces. The Unit also sensitizes and trains personnel about the need to protect the environment.

When was the Unit created?
The ECU was created in 2007 – a full two years before the publication of the Environmental Policy of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in 2009.

What are its achievements to date?
Based on the DPKO plan and with reference to Haitian laws on the environment, the Unit elaborated, together with other concerned entities, a policy specific to the Mission. We put in place a framework for an internal environmental audit, as well as a plan to collect and manage waste water, which is being executed to ensure adequate treatment of water.

The segregation, recycling and composting of solid waste is being carried out, without forgetting the regular inspections for evaluating the degree of compliance in relation to established norms.

What is the importance of such a perspective? What is the relationship between Peace Keeping and the environment?
Every activity, without distinction, is linked to the environment... Missions are specifically concerned because they operate in countries where the environment is often fragile, where natural resources are limited, poorly protected and not well exploited. Also, the physical and institutional infrastructures for pollution control and waste management are often inadequate or non-existent in such countries.

Strict internal measures are therefore necessary to avoid aggravating this situation.

As specified by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), an important link exists between Peace Keeping and the environment. Thus, the mandate of every Mission should include the support and even the mediation in the management of natural resources. Otherwise, the peace process may be compromised.

All Missions produce - but also consume - energy. What do you have to say about this and what figures are available?
It is true that every Mission requires a lot of equipment to fulfill its mandate, but we must be conscious of the consequences of our choices.

For example, in 2008 the annual emissions of greenhouse gases by the whole United Nations system were estimated at 1.7 million tons of CO2 equivalent; Peace Keeping Missions produce 54% of this.

The CO2 emissions per capita of the United Nations amounted to 8.4, compared to 0.25 by Haiti.

What are your biggest accomplishments?
To date, approximately 20% of the solid waste in the Mission is being recycled or composted. Papers, and particularly cardboard boxes, are used by a local company for making briquettes that are used for the preparation of meals for more than 100,000 Haitian school children.

More than 4,000 trees have been planted in several sites in the Mission and hundreds of thousands more across the country - through the scheme of Quick Impact Projects (QIPs), the Community Violence Reduction (CVR) program - and thanks to the support of the Haitian government.

The Mission has also eliminated the import and use of substances that deplete the ozone layer. Finally, hazardous waste is collected, and is either reused, recycled or destroyed; all the while minimizing the environmental impact that it might have.

Do you work in areas of ‘national life’ in Haiti?
The ECU does not work directly with the government or Haitian civil society, but we support sections and / or units of the Mission in projects with an environmental component. Direct support of the Mission in areas of national life is madethrough these other sections.

What would you point out as the principle challenges?
One of the major challenges is the weakness and even absence of certain basic infrastructures; for example, a municipal system for the collection and treatment of waste water or a site for the treatment of solid waste in the country. It is difficult for the Mission to contain everything within its premises.

Tell us about up-and-coming projects? Renewable energy?
The ECU is analyzing the demand and consumption of energy to explore the possibility of reduction.

The compost project for organic waste will be reinforced in order to minimize the amount of waste in the final waste disposal site. We envisage also the possibility of reusing the waste water once it is treated and tested.

The Mission is also studying the possibility of supporting the government of Haiti in its scheme of improving disposal sites. We are particularly interested in participating in the development of policies for the management of water and waste.

Finally, the Unit will also work to consolidate a management system capable of meeting the ISO 14001 international certification standards.

In 2007, the UN launched a campaign entitled ‘Greening the Blue’. Can you tell us more?
This is a strategy of ’zero impact’ of UN activities on climate change.

The Organization wants all its members and structures to know the potential impacts of their activities on the environment in general, and climate change in particular.

The 1.7 million tons of CO2 emitted every year contribute to global warming and climate change. Every entity of the Organization is called to take action to reduce their emissions.

How is the Mission in Haiti situated in this campaign?
Since 2007, MINUSTAH has been among the first Missions to put in place an environmental policy accompanied by an action plan. Tangible results have certainly been achieved but much has yet to be done.

Categories: Leadership