November 6: The International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict

November 5th, 2013 - by admin

The United Nations Environment Programme – 2013-11-05 22:30:48

6 November 2013:
International Day for Preventing
The Exploitation of the Environment
In War and Armed Conflict

The United Nations Environment Programme

“We must recognize peace and security as a critical “fourth dimension” of sustainable development. We must also acknowledge that durable peace and post-conflict development depend on environmental protection and good governance of natural resources.”

— UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message on the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation
of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.

On 5 November 2001, the UN General Assembly declared 6 November of each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.

Though mankind has always counted its war casualties in terms of dead and wounded soldiers and civilians, destroyed cities and livelihoods, the environment has often remained the unpublicized victim of war. Water wells have been polluted, crops torched, forests cut down, soils poisoned, and animals killed to gain military advantage.

Furthermore, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has found that over the last 60 years, at least 40 percent of all internal conflicts have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources, whether high-value resources such as timber, diamonds, gold and oil, or scarce resources such as fertile land and water.

Conflicts involving natural resources have also been found to be twice as likely to relapse.

The United Nations attaches great importance to ensuring that action on the environment is part of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding strategies — because there can be no durable peace if the natural resources that sustain livelihoods and ecosystems are destroyed.

From UNEP’s 2009 Report:
Protecting the Environment
During Armed Conflict

Direct and indirect environmental damage, coupled with the collapse of institutions, lead to environmental risks that can threaten people’s health, livelihoods and security, and ultimately undermine post-conflict peacebuilding…. There can be no durable peace if the natural resources that sustain livelihoods are damaged, degraded, and destroyed.

And then UNEP notes:

Where the international community has sought to hold States and individuals responsible for environmental harm caused during armed conflict, results have largely been poor, with one notable exception: holding Iraq accountable for damages caused during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, including for billions of dollars worth of compensation for environmental damage.

[Of course, the US gave Saddam Hussein the green light to invade Kuwait and then used this as the casus belli to attack Iraq — at a cost of $61 billion. The US dropped more than 85,000 tons of bombs on the region but only Iraq was required to pay reparations. — GS @ EAW]

UN Peacekeeping Activities:
Environment and Sustainability

We recognize the potential damage that our camps and operations can have on the environment, as well as on the local economy and on relations with host communities.

The urgent deployment of thousands of civilian, police and military personnel requires a very large amount of logistical support. Often the countries in which peacekeeping personnel operate have very little infrastructure.

All these UN people produce liquid and solid waste which, if not treated and disposed properly, can have an impact on the local environment.

Peacekeeping missions that are temporary and deployed in remote areas often generate their own power and use aircraft that consume a lot of fuel, emit greenhouse gases and possibly cause some soil pollution.

In some areas like Darfur or Chad, where water is a scarce resource, the local community may see the UN mission as a resource competitor.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Field Support (DFS) recognize this potential damage and as a result have jointly developed an overarching policy to deal with environmental issues. This fits into the wider UN Secretary General’s Greening the Blue initiative.

Conflict and resources
DPKO recognises that the environment, natural resources and the impact of climate change can all be drivers for conflict.

Our approach
DPKO and the DFS are actively working towards ensuring environmental sustainability.

Sharing best practice
Identifying environmental challenges and best practices helps the continuous improvement of our field operations.