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Depoliticisation as a securitising move: the case of the United Nations Environment Programme

  • Lucile Maertens (a1)

Abstract

Created in 1972, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has a normative mandate to promote the protection of the environment at the international level. However, since 1999, the organisation has been conducting field assessments in postconflict situations and addressing the role of natural resources in conflict, framing the environment as a security issue. To do so, the programme insists on its neutrality as a technical and ‘apolitical’ actor within the UN system. Considering depoliticisation as a political act, this article unpacks the concrete practices by which international organisations (IOs) enact depoliticisation. It further argues that IOs can perform securitising moves through practices and techniques presented as outside of the political realm. It draws upon the recent work on depoliticisation at the international level and reinforces studies considering the links between (de)politicisation and securitisation.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Email: lucile.maertens@unil.ch

References

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1 At the end of 2016, the organisation changed its name to ‘UN Environment’. However, it is still mostly known under the acronym of UNEP.

2 UNEP, UNCHS, The Kosovo Conflict: Consequences for the Environment & Human Settlements (Geneva: UNEP, UNCHS, 1999).

3 UNEP, From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment (Geneva: UNEP, 2009), p. 8 .

4 The organisation relies on multiple communication tools to promote its publications to the medias.

5 Interview with a programme manager, Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch (hereafter PCDMB), UNEP, Geneva, April 2012.

6 UN General Assembly, A/RES/2997(XXVII) Resolution of the General Assembly 27/2997, 15 December 1972.

7 UNEP website, ‘About UNEP’, available at: {http://web.unep.org/about/who-we-are/overview} accessed January 2017.

8 Detailed information on the number of staff and projects is not available in the latest annual report. UNEP, UNEP Programme Performance Report, 2014 (Nairobi: UNEP, 2015), p. 10.

9 Interview with the director, PCDMB, UNEP, Geneva, March 2012.

10 Ferguson, James, The Anti-Politics Machine: ‘Development’, Depoliticization and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Barnett, Michael and Finnemore, Martha, Rules for the World: International Organizations in Global Politics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004); Franck Petiteville, ‘International organizations beyond depoliticized governance’, Globalizations (2017), available at: doi: 10.1080/14747731.2017.1370850; ‘The (De)Politicizations of International Organizations’, Special Issue (in French) ed. Franck Petiteville, Critique internationale, 76:3 (2017); Maertens, Lucile and Parizet, Rahaëlle, ‘“On ne fait pas de politique!”: Les pratiques de dépolitisation au PNUD et au PNUE’, Critique internationale, 76:3 (2017), pp. 4160 ; Stone, Diane, ‘Global governance depoliticized: Knowledge networks, scientization and anti-policy’, in Paul Fawcett, Matthew Flinders, Colin Hay, and Matthew Wood (eds), Anti-Politics, Depoliticization, and Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), pp. 91111, 112–33 .

11 Fawcett et al. (eds), Anti-Politics, Depoliticization, and Governance, p. 5.

12 Swyngedouw, Erik, ‘Depoliticized environments: the end of nature, climate change and the post-political condition’, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, 69 (2011), pp. 253274 .

13 Pram Gad, Ulrik and Petersen, Karen Lund, ‘Concepts of politics in securitization studies’, Security Dialogue, 42:4–5 (2011), pp. 315328 ; Bourbeau, Philippe, ‘Moving forward together: Logics of the securitization process’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 43:1 (2014), pp. 187206 .

14 Buzan, Barry, Wæver, Ole, and de Wilde, Jaap, Security: A New Framework for Analysis (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1998), p. 29 .

15 Expression used by James Ferguson and reinterpreted recently by Fawcett, Flinders, Hay, and Wood (eds), in Anti-Politics, Depoliticization, and Governance.

16 It intends to supplement the few studies focusing on IOs and securitisation: Huysmans, Jef, ‘The European Union and the securitization of migration’, Journal of Common Market Studies, 38:5 (2000), pp. 751777 ; Balzacq, Thierry, ‘The policy tools of securitization: Information exchange, EU foreign and interior policies’, Journal of Common Market Studies, 46:1 (2008), pp. 75100 ; Hanrieder, Tine and Kreuder-Sonnen, Christian, ‘WHO decides on the exception? Securitization and the emergency governance in global health’, Security Dialogue, 45:4 (2014), pp. 331-348 .

17 Vaughn, Jocelyn, ‘The unlikely securitizer: Humanitarian organizations and the securitization of indistinctiveness’, Security Dialogue, 40:3 (2009), pp. 263285 .

18 The empirical study does not include the most recent evolutions driven by UNEP’s new executive director. However, these new institutional arrangements do not alter the present analysis focused on the interrelation between depoliticisation and securitisation.

19 Humphrey, J. F. and Straume, Ingerid S., Depoliticization: The Political Imaginary of Global Capitalism (Malmö: NSU Press, 2010); Wood, Matt and Flinders, Matthew, ‘Rethinking depoliticisation: Beyond the governmental’, Policy & Politics, 42:2 (2014), pp. 151170 ; Wilson, Japhy and Swyngedouw, Erik, The Post-Political and its Discontent: Spaces of Depolicisiation and Spectres of Radical Politics (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014); ‘Depoliticisation, Governance and the State’, Special Issue, ed. Matthew Flinders and Matt Wood, Policy & Politics, 42:2 (2014); Fawcett et al. (eds), Anti-Politics, Depoliticization, and Governance; Stone, ‘Global governance depoliticized’.

20 Berling, Trine Villumsen, ‘Science and securitization: Objectivation, the authority of the speaker and mobilization of scientific facts’, Security Dialogue, 42:4–5 (2011), p. 385 .

21 Balzacq, ‘The policy tools of securitization’, p. 93.

22 Fawcett et al. (eds), Anti-Politics, Depoliticization, and Governance, p. 5.

23 Flinders, Matthew and Wood, Matt, ‘Depoliticisation, governance and the state’, Policy & Politics, 42:2 (2014), p. 159 .

24 Hay, Colin, Why We Hate Politics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007).

25 Wood and Flinders, ‘Depoliticisation, governance and the state’, p. 161.

26 Ibid., p. 156.

27 Ibid., pp. 158–63.

28 Hay, Colin, ‘Depoliticisation as process, governance as practice: What did the “first wave” get wrong and do we need a “a second wave” to put it right?’, Policy & Politics, 42:2 (2014), p. 293 .

29 Fawcett et al. (eds), Anti-Politics, Depoliticization, and Governance, p. 5.

30 Ibid., pp. 24, 293.

31 Flinders and Wood, ‘Depoliticisation, governance and the state’, p. 142.

32 Papadopoulos, Yannis, ‘Multilevel governance and depoliticisation’, in Fawcett et al. (eds), Anti-Politics, Depoliticization, and Governance p. 141 .

33 Dufournet, Hélène, ‘Quand techniciser c’est faire de la politique “sans le dire”: Récit d’une “technicisation réussie” au ministère de la Défense’, Gouvernement & action publique, 1 (2014), p. 43 ,

title and text translated from French by author.

34 Ibid., p. 32.

35 Habermas, Jürgen, Theory and Practice (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973).

36 Stone, ‘Global governance depoliticized’, p. 95.

37 Ibid., pp. 101–02.

38 Cited in Devin, Guillaume, ‘Traditions et mystères de l’interdépendance internationale’, in Pascal Morvan (ed.), Droit, politique et littérature: Mélanges en l’honneur du Professeur Yves Guchet (Brussels: Bruylant, 2008), p. 253 .

39 Petiteville, , ‘International organizations beyond depoliticized governance’; Annabelle Littoz-Monnet (ed.), The Politics of Expertise in International Organizations: How International Bureaucracies Produce and Mobilize Knowledge (London: Routledge, 2017).

40 Stone, ‘Global governance depoliticized’, p. 92.

41 Barnett and Finnemore, Rules for the World, p. 63.

42 Ferguson, The Anti-Politics Machine.

43 Mark Duffield, ‘Carry on Killing: Global Governance, Humanitarianism and Terror’, Working Paper No. 23 (Copenhagen, Danish Institute for International Studies, 2004); Mosse, David, Cultivating Development: An Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice (London and Ann Arbor: Pluto Press, 2005); Parizet, Raphaëlle, Les paradoxes du développement: Sociologie politique des dispositifs de normalisation des populations indiennes au Mexique (Paris: Dalloz, 2015).

44 Maertens and Parizet, ‘“On ne fait pas de politique!”’, p. 55.

45 Schot, Johan and Lagendijk, Vincent, ‘Technocratic internationalism in the interwar years: Building Europe on motorways and electricity networks’, Journal of Modern European History, 6:2 (2008), pp. 196217 ; Rodogno, Davide, Struck, Bernhard, and Vogel, Jakob (eds), Shaping the Transnational Sphere: Experts, Networks and Issues from the 1840s to the 1930s (New York: Berghahn Books, 2015).

46 Swyngedouw, Erik, ‘The antinomies of the postpolitical city: In search of a democratic politics of environmental production’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 33:3 (2009), p. 602 .

47 Ibid., p. 605.

48 Buzan, Wæver, and de Wilde, Security, p. 25.

49 Wæver, Ole, ‘Securitization and desecuritization’, in Ron Lipschutz (ed.), On Security (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), pp. 4686 .

50 Floyd, Rita, Security and the Environment: Securitisation Theory and US Environmental Security Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 1 .

51 Balzacq, Thierry (ed.), Securitization Theory: How Security Problems Emerge and Dissolve (New York: Routledge, 2011).

52 Balzacq (ed.), Securitization Theory, p. 3.

53 Ibid.

54 Floyd, Security and the Environment.

55 Bigo, Didier, ‘Security and immigration: Toward a critique of the governmentality of unease’, Alternatives, 27 (2002), pp. 6392 .

56 Bourbeau, ‘Moving forward together’, p. 190.

57 Floyd, Rita and Matthew, Richard (eds), Environmental Security: Approaches and Issues (New York: Routledge, 2013).

58 McDonald, Matt, Security, the Environment and Emancipation: Contestation over Environmental Change (London: Routledge, 2011).

59 Ciută, Felix, ‘Conceptual notes on energy security: Total or banal security?’, Security Dialogue, 41:2 (2010), pp. 123144 .

60 Ibid., p. 139.

61 Julia Trombetta, Maria, ‘Environmental security and climate change: Analysing the discourse’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 21:4 (2008), pp. 585602 .

62 Detraz, Nicole and Betsill, Michelle, ‘Climate change and environmental security: For whom the discourse shifts’, International Studies Perspectives, 10 (2009), pp. 303320 ; Oels, Angela, ‘From “securitization” of climate change to “climatization” of the security field: Comparing three theoretical perspectives’, in Jürgen Scheffran et al. (eds), Climate Change, Human Security and Violent Conflict (Berlin: Springer, 2012), pp. 185205 ; Methmann, Chris and Rothe, Delf, ‘Politics for the day after tomorrow: the logic of apocalypse in global climate politics’, Security Dialogue, 43:4 (2012), pp. 323344 ; von Lucke, Franziskus, Wellmann, Zehra, and Diez, Thomas, ‘What’s at stake in securitising climate change? Towards a differentiated approach’, Geopolitics, 19:4 (2014), pp. 857884 .

63 von Lucke, Wellmann, and Diez, ‘What’s at stake in securitising climate change?’, pp. 857–84.

64 Though it does not discuss the securitisation process, Ken Conca provides a general overview of UN activities in the field of environmental security, including UNEP’s action. Conca, Ken, An Unfinished Foundation: The United Nations and Global Environmental Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

65 Buzan, Wæver, and de Wilde, Security, p. 29.

66 Villumsen Berling, ‘Science and securitization’, pp. 385–6, emphasis in original.

67 Stone, ‘Global governance depoliticized’.

68 Wilson and Swyngedouw, The Post-Political and its Discontent, p. 6.

69 Anderson, Ben and McFarlane, Colin, ‘Assemblage and geography’, Area, 43:2 (2011), pp. 124127 .

70 Aradau, Claudia, Huysmans, Jef, Neal, Andrew, and Voelkner, Nadine (eds), Critical Security Methods: New Frameworks for Analysis (New York: Routledge, 2015), p. 7 ; Marcus, George and Saka, Erkan, ‘Assemblage’, Theory, Culture & Society, 23:2–3 (2006), p. 106 .

71 Allen, John, ‘Powerful assemblages?’, Area, 43:2 (2011), p. 154 , emphasis in original.

72 Maertens and Parizet, ‘“On ne fait pas de politique!”’, pp. 8–9.

73 Interview with the director, PCDMB, UNEP, Geneva, March 2012.

74 Ibid.

75 Interview with the programme manager, Environmental Cooperation and Peacebuilding, PCDMB, UNEP, Geneva, April 2012.

76 Ibid.

77 Participant observation within UNEP: PCDMB, Environmental Cooperation and Peacebuilding unit, Geneva, May to August 2011.

78 Stone, ‘Global governance depoliticized’, p. 95.

79 Villumsen Berling, ‘Science and securitization’.

80 Anonymous interview.

81 UNEP, From Conflict to Peacebuilding, p. 5.

82 Anonymous interview.

83 Participant observation within UNEP (2011).

84 UNEP, Livelihood Security: Climate Change, Migration and Conflict in the Sahel (Geneva: UNEP, 2011), pp. 5051 .

85 Barthe, Yannick , ‘ Le recours au politique ou la problématisation politique “par défaut”’, in Jacques Lagroye (ed.), La politisation (Paris: Belin, 2003), p. 479 .

86 Interview with the executive director, UNEP, Nairobi, August 2012.

87 Interview with the deputy coordinator, ‘Disasters and Conflicts’ programme, PCDMB, UNEP, Geneva, April 2012.

88 Stone, ‘Global governance depoliticized’, p. 104.

89 See {http://environmentalpeacebuilding.org/} accessed January 2017.

90 Interview with the programme manager, Environmental Cooperation and Peacebuilding, PCDMB, UNEP, Geneva, April 2012; interview with the programme manager, UN-EU partnership on natural resources and conflict prevention, New York, February 2013.

91 EU-UN Partnership on Land, Natural Resources, and Conflict Prevention website, available at: {http://www.un.org/en/land-natural-resources-conflict/index.shtml} accessed January 2017.

92 United Nations Interagency Framework Team for Preventive Action (hereafter UNIFTPA), Toolkit and Guidance for Preventing and Managing Land and Natural Resources Conflict (hereafter: TGPMLNRC): Land and Conflict (New York, 2012).

93 UNIFTPA, TGPMLNRC: Extractive Industries and Conflict (New York, 2012).

94 UNIFTPA, TGPMLNRC: Renewable Resources and Conflict (New York, 2012).

95 UNIFTPA, TGPMLNRC: Strengthening Capacity for Conflict-Sensitive Natural Resource Management (New York, 2012).

96 UNIFTPA, TGPMLNRC: Conflict Prevention in Resource Rich Economies (New York, 2012).

97 UNIFTPA, TGPMLNRC: Capacity Inventory (New York, 2010).

98 UNDG-ECHA Guidance Note Natural Resource Management in Transition Settings, available at: {http://www.un.org/en/land-natural-resources-conflict/offer/undp-echa.shtml} accessed January 2017.

99 Environmental Emergencies Centre, available at: {http://www.eecentre.org/} accessed January 2017.

100 Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, ‘Environmental Emergencies Section’, Fact sheet, n.d.

101 The UNSSC is a UN programme that was set up in 1996 as part of a joint operation between the United Nations and the International Labor Organization (ILO), which became independent in 2002 after the approval of the General Assembly. Its mission is ‘to contribute to a more effective, results-oriented and agile United Nations through learning, training and knowledge dissemination’. See UNSSC website, ‘About UNSSC’, available at: {http://www.unssc.org/about-unssc/} accessed January 2017.

102 EU-UN Partnership on Land, Natural Resources and Conflict Prevention, available at: {http://www.un.org/en/land-natural-resources-conflict/index.shtml} accessed January 2017.

103 Established in 1963, UNITAR is ‘a training arm of the United Nations System’. See UNITAR website, ‘About Us’, available at: {http://unitar.org/the-institute} accessed January 2017.

104 UNEP, Greening the Blue Helmets: Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations (Nairobi: UNEP, 2012).

105 Participant observation within DPKO and DFS: Policy, Evaluation, and Training division, Policy Planning unit, New York, October 2012 to February 2013.

106 Duke University, University of California Irvine, Columbia University, and ELI.

108 Participant observation within DPKO and DFS (2012–13).

109 Participant observation within UNEP (2011).

110 Interview with a programme manager, PCDMB, UNEP, Geneva, April 2012.

111 Participant observation within UNEP (2011).

112 UNEP, Afghanistan: Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment (Geneva: UNEP, 2003), p. 105 .

113 UNEP, Sudan: Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment (Nairobi: UNEP, 2007), p. 330 .

114 Interview with the programme manager, UN-EU Partnership on Natural Resources and Conflict Prevention, New York, February 2013.

115 Participant observation within UNEP (2011).

116 Stone, ‘Global governance depoliticized’, p. 96.

117 Conca, Ken and Wallace, Jennifer, ‘Environment and peacebuilding in war-torn societies: Lessons from the UN Environment Programme’s experience with postconflict assessment’, Global Governance, 15 (2009), p. 500 .

118 Interview with the director, PCDMB, UNEP, Geneva, March 2012.

119 Participant observation within UNEP (2011).

120 Participant observation within UNEP (2011).

121 The EnvSec (Environmental Security) initiative was established in 2003 by UNEP and focuses on environmental security in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, and the Balkans.

122 Interview with the programme manager, EnvSec Initiative, Geneva, April 2012.

123 Sandei, Carlo, ‘The environment and security initiative in South Eastern Europe: Transforming risk into cooperation’, in Massimiliano Montini and Slavko Bogdanovic (eds), Environmental Security in South-Eastern Europe: International Agreements and Their Implementation (Dordrecht: Springer, 2011), p. 24 .

124 Interview with the director, PCDMB, UNEP, Geneva, March 2012.

125 Participant observation within UNEP (2011).

126 Conca, Ken and Dabelko, Geoffrey, Environmental Peacemaking (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2002).

127 Maas, Achim, Carius, Alexander, and Wittich, Anja, ‘From conflict to cooperation? Environmental cooperation as a tool for peacebuilding’, in Floyd and Matthew (eds), Environmental Security, p. 104.

128 Interview with the deputy director, Division of Environmental Policy Implementation, UNEP, Nairobi, August 2012.

129 Participant observation within UNEP (2011).

130 Louis, Marieke and Maertens, Lucile, ‘Des stratégies de changement dans les organisations internationales: une analyse comparée du HCR et de l’OIT’, Etudes internationales, 45:2 (2014), pp. 183206 .

131 Barnett and Finnemore, Rules for the World, p. 21.

132 Stone, ‘Global governance depoliticized’, p. 95.

133 Interview with the director, PCDMB, UNEP, Geneva, March 2012.

134 Interview with a former intern, UNEP, New York, February 2013.

135 Ibid.

136 Interview with the executive director, UNEP, Nairobi, August 2012.

137 UNEP, UNEP the First 40 Years: A Narrative by Stanley Johnson (Nairobi: UNEP, 2012), p. 198 .

138 Interview with the director, PCDMB, UNEP, Geneva, March 2012.

139 UNEP, Depleted Uranium in Serbia and Montenegro: Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Geneva: UNEP, 2002).

140 UNEP, Depleted Uranium in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment (Geneva: UNEP, 2013 b).

141 UNEP, Technical Report on Capacity-Building for the Assessment of Depleted Uranium in Iraq (Geneva: UNEP, 2007).

142 UNEP, Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment – FYR of Albania (Geneva: UNEP, 2000).

143 UNEP, Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment – FYR of Macedonia (Geneva: UNEP, 2000).

144 UNEP, Afghanistan.

145 Interview with the director, PCDMB, UNEP, Geneva, March 2012.

146 UNEP/GC.23/INF20, Twenty-third Session of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (14 December 2004).

147 Interview with the executive director, UNEP, Nairobi, August 2012.

148 ‘The UNEP Baobab Staff Awards programme was established in 2007 to recognize and reward exceptional performance and dedication to achieving the goals of UNEP.’ See UNEP Website, available at: {http://www.unep.org/documents.multilingual/default.asp?DocumentID=43&ArticleID=5770&l=en} accessed January 2017.

149 Interview with the programme manager, Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding, PCDMB, UNEP, Geneva, April 2012.

150 UNEP, From Conflict to Peacebuilding.

151 DPA, UNEP, Natural Resources and Conflict: A Guide for Mediation Practitioners (Nairobi, New York: DPA/UNEP, 2015).

152 UNEP, Desk Study on the Environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Nairobi: UNEP, 2003), p. 9 .

153 UNEP, ‘UN Environment will Support Environmental Recovery and Peacebuilding for Post-Conflict Development in Colombia’ (23 March 2017), available at: {http://www.unep.org/newscentre/un-environment-will-support-environmental-recovery-and-peacebuilding-post-conflict-development} accessed June 2017.

154 Elliott, Lorraine, The Global Politics of the Environment (2nd edn, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), p. 231 .

155 Hartmann, Betsy, ‘Climate chains: Neo-Malthusianism, militarism and migration’, in Chris Methmann, Delf Rothe, and Benjamin Stephan (eds), Interpretative Approaches to Global Climate Governance: (De)constructing the Greenhouse (London: Routledge, 2013), p. 93 .

156 UN Security Council, Proceedings S/PV.6587 (20 July 2011, Resumption 1).

157 UNEP, Desk Study on the Environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, p. 5.

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