Climate change and conflict are two of the biggest challenges faced by our world. Yet, environmental work and peacebuilding efforts are rarely coordinated. By supporting local peacebuilders to reduce violence while caring for the environment, we’re determined to change this. This Earth Day, we share how you can help.
Failing crops, dried up wells, floods and displacements in search of fertile lands are all consequences of damage to our planet. Environmental factors themselves are rarely the single cause of violence, yet are linked to violent conflict in many ways, often hidden by other factors.
The COVID-19 crisis and its impact around the world has been dominating our recent attention, crowding out other issues such as the environment. Yet, the very nature of global crises, from disease to climate change, is that their effects are global – changing the lives of everyone, and proving that our global community, and the issues we face together, are interwoven.
A tale of two issues
Conflict can make it difficult for countries to adapt to the impact of climate change and environmental disasters. At the same time, climate change and misuse of natural resources could jeopardise peace around the world, by aggravating existing tensions and creating competition over scarce resources.
Violent conflict doesn’t stop in a pandemic, and nor does climate change. Working with our partners in Eastern DRC to mine conflict free and environmentally friendly gold, we’re synchronising efforts to create a world that is peaceful and healthy.
Gold mining degrades the environment and compromises the health of hundreds of thousands in DRC alone. We support our partner Centre Résolution Conflits (CRC) which is working to produce ethical and environmentally friendly gold in two cooperatives.
CRC’s cooperatives are situated in the volatile territory of Djugu. Yet since their project has been bringing communities together with a common aim to improve their environment, the levels of violence have reduced, and peaceful cooperation has increased.
This is Xavier’s story
Xavier* is from Djugu, DRC. He has worked in a gold mine since his childhood.
“I would spend the night in the mines, and sometimes at night I would get up to steal after smoking weed. In 2000 I joined a local militia group. We were trained and I became a good soldier…I had no mercy in my violence towards others.
In the mean time I continued mining for gold and had a lot of money. The production, processing and sale of gold was done illegally, without protection. The construction sites were guarded by armed militiamen.
I finally managed to leave the group, but everybody was afraid of me back home. Nobody wanted to come near me. I was ashamed, marginalised. Even at church no one dared to sit next to me.
To escape my own trauma, I threw myself into my mining work again. It wasn’t until 2017 that I heard about a local organisation Centre Résolution Conflits (CRC) providing multiple trainings in conflict, financial management and responsible environmental management. I joined the programme and started attending their sessions on trauma. Within six months I felt cured.”
You can help former fighters like Xavier find peace and overcome the trauma of war.
“Now, I produce a lot of gold in conditions that don’t harm the environment. Thanks to CRC we know how to use machines that don’t harm the environment. Being part of this cooperative has made things easier for me. My daily profits have increased and I can now support my family. I have already bought three plots of land, and have started building on one of them using the knowledge on environmental management.
I joined the mine as a child. 35 years on, I am now in charge of a team, looking after children who have lost their parents due to conflict. I am now able to teach them the skills I have learned on ethical gold production.
I’m grateful that all my children are in school and my income feels stable. The presence of the mining cooperative has made an impact in my home and family, even in my community.”
You can make an impact on the lives of more families like Xavier’s, with a donation to Peace Direct today.
In Zimbabwe, we work with a local organisation, Envision Zimbabwe, whose work focuses on reducing political and gender-based violence, and building community cohesion. Recently, they ran Conflict Transformation Training for Traditional Leaders in Hurungwe, bringing together 70 people. Read more »