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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

Environmental peacebuilding: Myth or reality?

The joint research project "Environmental peacebuilding: Myth or reality?", led by Prof. Jonas Ø. Nielsen and Prof. Itay Fischhendler, is based on a research cooperation between the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin from 2016 to 2017.


Panoramo of Jerusalem (photo: Adil Dalbai)

This joint research aims at investigating the limits and opportunities of the concept of environmental peacebuilding. As an alternative conceptual framework to the traditional conception of resource security and scarcity as a source of conflict, environmental peacebuilding is argued to having the potential to tackle contemporaneous needs and challenges. This theoretical framework will be applied to the case of Israeli-Palestinian relationships.

Although natural resources are rarely sufficient to initiate an outbreak of violence, environmental factors can play a key role in violent conflicts. Moving away from environmental scarcity as a cause of violence, researchers have increasingly come to envision environmental change and degradation as an incentive for potential conflict parties to cooperate rather than to engage in conflict. This nexus between conflicts and the environment have promoted the notion of environmental peacemaking and peacebuilding since the early 2000s.

However, since its emergence, environmental peacebuilding has failed to evolve into a coherent theoretical framework. This joint research proposes to further investigate the relevancy of this concept, envisioning environmental change and cooperation in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Building on ongoing researches at the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the research explores whether and how shared natural resources can contribute to building sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Focusing on environmental issues such as water and climate change, this joint research takes a critical look at the concept of environmental peacebuilding and examines possible pathways for future environmental cooperation in the study region in light of this new approach.

The researchers behind the project

Jonas Ø. Nielsen is Junior Professor at Humboldt-Universität's Department of Geography. He studied social anthropology at Auckland University, New Zealand, and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and obtained his doctorate in Human Geography in 2010 at University of Copenhagen. At IRI THESys, he leads the Research Group “Changing rural-urban relations in an increasingly interconnected world”.

Itay Fischhendler is Associate Professor at the Hebrew University's Department of Geography. His research interests focus on environmental conflict resolution, natural resources management and governance and decision making under conditions of political and environmental uncertainties. He is a leading scholar on transboundary water institutions and Middle East water issues, with over 30 articles published in public policy, conflict resolution, peace studies, geography, ecological economics, and environmental journals.