The record of these efforts is as diverse as the ecosystems they are trying to protect. But speaking with complete confidence about results still requires more projects running for more time. Building peace and conserving the environment are long-term processes and the programs to support them will require long timelines to evaluate as well. Transboundary peace parks have evolved (some might say improved) over time, addressing equity, consultation, and effectiveness shortfalls in early projects. But enough evidence from a variety of contexts suggests that pursuing the combination of objectives can be worth the effort.
International Peace Park Expeditions is an organization working to help build up a corpus of projects through sharing lessons learned from existing projects and integrating peace parks into experiential learning curricula. IPPE’s new micro-documentary, Transcending Boundaries: Perspectives from the Central Albertine Rift Transfrontier Protected Area Network, provides vivid pictures and expert insights into lessons from this Ugandan, Rwandan, and Congolese conservation collaboration. The film explores transboundary conservation efforts through geographic, socio-political and ecological lens. The filmmakers interviewed a diverse range of stakeholders, each of whom play a critical role in conserving this biodiversity hotspot, despite conflict and instability while dealing with challenges from poaching, lack of sustainable livelihoods and the activities of armed groups.
IPPE’s experiential learning expeditions partner with universities to take students overseas to learn the theory and on the ground reality of transboundary conservation and peace efforts. IPPE founding director Todd Walters recently talked about these “journeys with a purpose” that IPPE leads in Central America, the Balkans, and the U.S.-Canadian border. IPPE also offers embedded fellowships, working both with IPPE and with local partners in-country.
IPPE is one small piece of the transboundary conservation and peace puzzle, one that focuses on combining educational and applied learning with advancing on the ground efforts. Going forward, practitioners, scholars, and communities should learn from past experiences and continue to push forward these combined approaches to building peace and advancing conservation in transboundary contexts.
This WOUB Conversation from Studio B radio interview , recorded during Todd Walter’s recent visit to Ohio University, also highlights IPPE’s Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment tool designed to identify peacebuilding opportunities in transboundary conservation.
Geoff Dabelko is Professor and Director of Environmental Studies at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and Senior Advisor for the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program. He serves as an advisory board member for IPPE.