NEWS | Sept. 26, 2018

Establishing a “Habit of Environmental Security Dialogue”

By Justin Pummell U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia -– For eight years, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) has held the Pacific Environmental Security Forum (PESF), a capstone event designed to increase environmental stewardship obligations within militaries and increase environmental security cooperation. This year, the event was held in Northeast Asia for the first time focused on establishing an environmental security “habit of dialogue” between USINDOPACOM and the region. When asked about the major results of the event, CAPT Jeff Deviney, USINDOPACOM Joint Engineer said, “One outcome of this forum is to better understand the challenges Mongolia faces and design practical projects that address problems and build resiliency. We also are meeting bilaterally among the countries to better align all our efforts to confront regional environmental issues.”

The four-day event involved over 60 participants from Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and the United States. The PESF commenced with each country providing an overview of their current environmental security program, followed by bilateral discussions to identify partnership opportunities. Senior Colonel Li Xiaolu from the People’s Liberation Army of China described the forum as “very helpful”. She stated, “I am hopeful that all participating countries can continue to enhance environmental security cooperation and dialogue in the future.” LTC Kiyotaka Honda, Japan Defense Attaché to Mongolia, went on to say, “finally, I understand the importance of environmental security.”

The second day of the event was led by the Mongolia Ministry of Defense and focused on the nexus between food, water, and energy. Brigadier General Chimeddorj Sosorbaram, Chief of Security and Defense Policy Studies Center at Mongolia’s National Defense University stated, “This environmental security forum was significant for promotion of regional cooperation on environmental security and enhancing dialogues and experiences.” On Day 2, Mongolian subject matter experts explained current environmental security challenges the country faces, and then the Mongolia National Defense University took participants to the Shar Khad military training area to see soil contamination, wastewater, and solid waste issues firsthand. The site visit exemplified a trans-boundary pollution problem where civilian landfill waste was directly impacting military training.

The third day of the event was led by the Australia Defence Force (ADF). Brigadier Craig Dobson, Director General Support, Headquarters, Joint Operation Command, championed the theme of environmental security in contingency operations. ADF speakers shared best practices and lessons-learned related to the preservation and protection of heritage, incorporating international standards into environmental security contingency operations planning, and how environmental security can be a threat to and cause of instability. Dr. Lisa Guppy, United Nations Environment Programme, also contributed with a presentation on environmental peacebuilding. The day concluded with all participants dividing into groups and working through an environmental security contingency operation exercise.

The final day of the event focused on future environmental security collaboration and action. Mr. Sung Gil Soo, Republic of Korea Ministry of Defense, stated, “This forum has delivered practical solutions and shared real-world environmental security problems. We can face these problems together through multi-national cooperation.” USINDOPACOM and the Mongolia Ministry of Defense identified several environmental security projects it can work together in the future to achieve. This included overcoming some of the issues shown at the Shar Khad Training Center.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade will host the 2019 Pacific Environmental Security Forum, which is tentatively scheduled for 21-24 May 2019.

The PESF concluded with Mr. T. Dulamdorj, the Vice Minister of Defense of Mongolia, delivering his closing remarks. Mr. Dulamdorj stated in his speech that, “environmental security issues do not care about borders. It is a regional issue. This forum played a key role in advancing dialogue on this topic.”

You can learn more about USINDOPACOM’s environmental security program by visiting http://pesforum.org.