View from above of the main hall at the Paris Peace Forum

At last year’s Paris Peace Forum, the Joint Environmental Venture for South Asia was one of 10 projects selected for scale-up. The selection meant the project had access to support and mentorship from the Paris Peace Forum secretariat and wider community.

In partnership with Inter Mediate, the project aims to bring together environmental experts, think tanks, business leaders and peacemakers - initially from India and Pakistan - looking at air pollution, water usage and sustainable agriculture. The network’s unique combination of environmental and peacebuilding expertise presents an unparalleled opportunity to support climate action and peace at a critical moment.

This year, Conciliation Resources and Inter Mediate returned to discuss the project with other selectees, influential people and organisations. 

During a panel discussion on biodiversity loss, Tahir Aziz, Conciliation Resources’ Senior Adviser for South Asia was asked about attempts to reverse and adapt to nature’s degradation as a means for cooperation and possible avenue towards peace. Tahir said: “The Joint Environmental Venture for South Asia between India and Pakistan is trying to capitalise on the opportunity that climate action and environmental cooperation can provide for making relations better between adversarial countries. That improvement of the relationship hopefully makes more space for a better climate to prevail.”

Tahir Aziz speaking at the Paris Peace Forum 2023
Tahir Aziz speaking at the Paris Peace Forum 2023 ©Alexandre Dupeyron/CAPA Pictures for PPF 2023

Tahir went on to talk about our historic work with communities collaborating across the Line of Control, sharing analysis, trade, disaster management strategies and building trust. This work formed the basis of the Joint Venture project to create spaces where politics, peace and climate work come together.

Climate emergencies do not respect borders, and responses to these crises can create opportunities to work across territorial boundaries towards a common goal.

In describing the project, Ameya Kilara, Senior Projects Director with Inter Mediate said: “We are really exploring what can nature do for peace, and what could the spaces we open up for peace do for the causes of nature and climate action... What it takes is a painstaking, long-term accompaniment of these processes so that people can come together to solve these challenges. These are long-term problems and we need long-term solutions.”

Conciliation Resources’ Executive Director Jonathan Cohen presented the Joint Environmental Venture for South Asia during a session on Shaping our Shared Future. He said: “This particular initiative is around questions of peace, climate and collaboration. We asked ourselves in regard to peace, ‘what can you do to apply the tools of diplomacy and peacebuilding to the climate crisis and how can we deploy those skills to what we know is one of the most critical issues we face?’”

India and Pakistan have a combined population of 1.5 billion people. From the 2022 floods in Pakistan and air pollution in Delhi and Lahore, the region has seen its share of very significant climate traumas. 

If the world is to meet net zero targets by 2030, we need to accelerate the sorts of initiatives that are responding to the challenges we face. The skills and experiences that have been developed through peacebuilding can support wider collaboration across borders.

Inter Mediate is an international organisation advising leaders of government and political organisations on negotiating an end to violent conflict around the world. Inter Mediate was established in 2008 by Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former Chief of Staff and the lead British negotiator on Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement. It works to resolve and prevent conflicts through high-level political dialogue. By doing so, it aims to end the suffering directly caused by conflict and reduce the toll of its inevitable by-products: poverty, insecurity, and refugee flows. 

Images: ©Alexandre Dupeyron/CAPA Pictures for PPF 2023