The United Nations deploys humanitarian and peacekeeping operations in fragile states, often places with limited access to electricity and high vulnerability to climate change. Energy Peace Partners and The Stimson Center’s Powering Peace initiative aims to support the United Nations and its partners accelerate the transition to a renewable energy future in the field while introducing transformative renewable energy capacity into the crisis-affected communities the UN has been deployed to serve.
Despite a booming global renewable energy market, little of this investment reaches fragile states. Roughly 27 countries are most affected by conflict, climate change, and limited access to electricity. These states are primarily in Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Asia and impact over 850 million people. Many of these countries also host United Nations-supported humanitarian and peace operations. In 2016 alone, the international community spent more than $35 billion on these field missions, with the largest UN peace operations deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Mali, the Central African Republic, Lebanon, and Darfur (Sudan).
Worldwide, humanitarian and peacekeeping field operations run by the UN and aid organizations spend roughly $1.6 billion annually on energy to operate in fragile states. This funds diesel generators in off-grid settings in some of the least-electrified countries, where fuel convoys are high-value targets and diesel markets are often rife with corruption. Generators left behind by departing missions are expensive and sometimes of no use to communities. Making renewable energy an option for UN missions is a practical, cost-effective, and sustainable objective.
Powering Peace recognizes multiple opportunities associated with energy transitions in United Nations field deployments, including meeting existing UN goals to increase the use of renewable energy and achieve carbon neutrality by 2020, modernizing peace operations, increasing access to energy, creating the conditions for new clean energy investment, and fostering a clean energy legacy. By encouraging institutional commitments to use renewable energy sources in individual field missions, The Stimson Center and Energy Peace Partners are facilitating a shift toward clean energy throughout the UN system. Powering Peace leverages resources for field missions to increase the use of renewable energy systems and improve security and safety, provide long-term cost savings, support efficiency and introduce new energy infrastructure to areas most in need.
Powering Peace uses a combination of data-collection, research, analysis, and advocacy to (1) identify incentives and disincentives for a clean energy transition within the UN system for its field missions, (2) conduct case studies in crisis regions that host international peace and humanitarian field operations in order to understand the local dynamics around energy practice and distinguish opportunities for energy transitions ; and (3) develop options to encourage renewable energy transitions for UN field missions in fragile states through an analysis of collected information and data. . The project engages key partners within the United Nations and outside to map the current system of energy provision, articulate the benefits and challenges of an energy transition, and propose ways to shift how energy is provided to missions.
Our goal is to help the United Nations incorporate resilient, sustainable energy technologies into its operations, capitalize on the commitment member states have made to address climate change, and introduce new climate solutions to fragile settings. Building on decades of experience and expertise, the project team is working with experts and decision-makers from the UN, member states, non-governmental organizations and the commercial sector to better understand the institutional realities and use country-specific analysis to determine how field operations will be affected.
Read our most recent publication, Renewable Energy and UN Peacekeeping: Untapped Potential in the DRC, which highlights how the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) would benefit from greater use of renewable energy.