Hans Greimel / Associated Press – 2004-04-05 08:58:25
JEJU, South Korea (March 31, 2004) — The United Nations was examining ways environmental problems trigger war with the hope of developing an early warning system to avoid conflict, at a global summit that closes Wednesday.
The hope was to appoint a scientific team to research connections between regional conflict and water shortages, soil degradation, and pollution, said Nick Nuttall, a spokesman for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Identifying the links can serve as an early warning system, letting policymakers know that if certain environmental problems crop up they could spurpolitical tensions, he said.
It is commonly assumed by conservationists that environmental degradation can spike tensions and possibly trigger conflict.
Problems are often thought to stem from environmental refugees who flee floods, water shortages, dust storms, or pollution and venture into new areas where they are not always welcome.
But more research is needed because the links aren’t well understood,
Global environment ministers gathering for the three-day U.N. conference are considering a resolution to appoint a group of scientists to study the matter, Nuttall said. The discussions in Jeju, a South Korean resort island, will also form a basis for talks next month in New York with the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development
That meeting will assess progress toward the United Nation’s target of halving the number of people with no access to safe drinking water or basic sanitation by 2015. Globally about 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, while another 2.4 billion lacked access to basic sanitation, UNEP said. Nearly 5,000 children die every day from diseases caused by a lack of water.
The current forum will try to generate a Jeju Initiative that will identify concrete measures to be taken to reach the U.N. goals of improvement, Nuttall said.
Supplying safe water is increasingly difficult because the world population is growing so fast, by about 77 million people a year, UNEP said.