Peace and the Environment

World Environment Day is a day for encouraging awareness and action for procting our precious natrual resources. Peace and the environment have an interdependent and mutually reinforcing relationship. On this day, we take a look at the links between peace and the environment, and how changes in one might impact changes in the other. 

The Environment and Peace

Where people live, their access to resources, and their relationships with neighbours all have a significant impact on peace.

Often discussion between the environment and peace focuses on conflict studies. Whilst there appears to be a connection between climate variability and conflict, our investigations show there are many other reasons for caring about the environment to promote peace. Environmental factors can challenge attitudes, institutions and structures which, when strengthened, lead to a more peaceful society. This can ultimately lead to less peaceful societies, even without traditional conflict.

We will look at some challenges to peace faced by environmental changes.

Environmental Challenges to Peace

The increase in global demand for natural resources and growing population sizes poses a significant threat to peace. An increase in global demand for finite resources could result in less equal distribution of resources both globally and locally, which is one of the causes of tension and conflict.

The Pillars of Peace, a research framework which identifies 8 key factors that underpin peaceful societies, highlights the impact of equitable distribution of resources. Societies with more equal distribution of resources tend to be more peaceful.

Population Growth

Population growth within a country through the birth rate, and immigration potentially from environmental refugees, also has implications for peace.

There is a marked relationship between the size of the population of a country and its peacefulness: on average the level of peacefulness decreases as the population increases. Other factors also affect peace such as migration patterns. For more information on this, and other areas of peace research, check out the Six Year Trends In Peace section of the 2013 Global Peace Index.

Social cohesion

Another of the Pillars of Peace looks at social cohesion, and accepting the rights of others. With increases in migration expected, intergroup cohesion will likely be an area of concern. A 10 year study revealed that countries with lower levels of intergroup cohesion tended to experience greater relative declines in peacefulness.


Natural and man-made shocks and stresses will continue to grow due to the structural pressures of climate change, increased urbanization, population ageing and subsequent political tensions.

Therefore, cities and countries will need to build their resilience. Resilience is seen as the capacity of social systems to absorb stress and repair themselves, as well as a capacity for renewal and adaptation.

Peace creates resilience, thereby allowing societies to absorb shocks and disturbances more easily.

To find out more about the Pillars of Peace, as well as the link between peace and the environment, download the Pillars of Peace report

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Peace and Development

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Pillars of Peace

Our latest research report, the Pillars of Peace, explores the attitudes and institutions that underpin peaceful societies.

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Vision of Humanity is an initiative of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). IEP have offices in New York and Sydney. For more specific inquiries related to the peace indexes and research, please contact IEP directly.

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