The United Nations & Civil Society Statement – 2017-11-05 17:40:22
International Day for Preventing the
Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict
The United Nations
NEW YORK (November 4, 2017) — 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 (A/RES/56/4).
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.
On 27 May 2016, the United Nations Environment Assembly adopted resolution UNEP/EA.2/Res.15, which recognized the role of healthy ecosystems and sustainably managed resources in reducing the risk of armed conflict, and reaffirmed its strong commitment to the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals listed in General Assembly resolution 70/1, entitled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
NGOs and leading experts have used the United Nationâ€™s International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict to call for greater progress in efforts to protect people and the environment from the impact of warfare.
Highlighting the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, the organisations and experts argue that conflict pollution, and damage to ecosystems and natural resources, pose immediate threats to human health and threaten reconstruction and peacebuilding.
The signatories, which include humanitarian, environmental, legal and development organisations, as well as experts in healthcare and conservation, highlight five priorities for the international community that would minimise harm to people and the environment they depend on.
Signs of Progress
The call comes amid signs that governments are slowly beginning to consider the environmental causes and consequences of conflicts. Next month at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, governments will vote on an Iraqi resolution on conflict pollution: the so-called Islamic State set fire to over 20 oil wells in the country, which burned for more than eight months
At the United Nations Security Council, climate change is increasingly accepted as a risk factor for triggering conflicts, alongside the exploitation of natural resources. The United Nationsâ€™ International Law Commission has been tasked with reviewing the weak state of legal protection for the environment before, during and after conflicts.
Meanwhile, the need for greater consideration of environmental risks by organisations responding to the humanitarian crises caused by conflicts was on the agenda of humanitarian organisations at the United Nations’ Environment and Emergencies Forum this September.
The call signatories welcomed these developments, as well as new platforms for educating decision-makers on integrating environmental protection into post-war policies but argued that progress must be accelerated. Priority areas include increasing the United Nations’ capacity to monitor and respond to environmental risks, and supporting the progressive development of international law.
The full statement can be appears below:
Protecting the Environment, Protecting People
Civil Society Joint Statement
(November 6, 2017) — During 2017, the world witnessed another year of serious environmental damage inflicted by wars and armed conflicts. November 6th, the United Nations’ International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict is an annual opportunity to reflect on the environmental costs and consequences of warfare.
From the oil wells of Qayyarah in Iraq, set alight by the Islamic State, to the widespread damage to cities, towns and industrial areas throughout Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
To the toxic risks of flooded coalmines and the shelling of industry and critical infrastructure in Ukraine, to the flows of hazardous waste polluting the shores of Gaza; the international community is failing to effectively address the environmental costs of warfare, in spite of the threats they pose to human health.
Environmental degradation linked to conflict, such as the loss of forests or the overexploitation of drylands or water resources, can also drive insecurity and hamper peacebuilding. Conversely, the sustainable and equitable use of these same resources is often the key to building peace.
This equally applies to oil and mineral resources, the exploitation of which helps to motivate and finance conflicts around the world. Ultimately it is ecosystems and communities that bear the brunt of environmental damage and the misuse of natural resources; harm that is often exacerbated by the wholesale collapse of environmental governance during conflicts.
In an era marked by global environmental challenges, it is paramount that the international community also recognises that strengthening the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts is both vital, and long overdue. Protecting the environment before, during and after armed conflicts means protecting the lives and the futures of communities.
The health and socio-economic consequences of wartime environmental degradation interfere with the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and with sustainable development. Particular sections of affected populations may be disproportionately vulnerable to harm or exclusion from processes to protect their rights, such as women, but also children, the elderly, people with disabilities and indigenous peoples.
While there are signs that the international community is beginning to take steps towards addressing the links between the environment, conflict and the protection of civilians and ecosystems, much remains to be done.
The topic is increasingly on the agenda of the UN’s Security Council and Environment Assembly. Its International Law Commission is reviewing the laws protecting the environment from conflict. Meanwhile new online platforms have been developed that focus on the environment in humanitarian response and in educating decision-makers on sustainable resource management.
On this #EnvConflictDay we make five calls to the international community:
1. Increase the protection of civilians by ensuring that the environment is fully integrated into humanitarian response, and improve environmental data collection, analysis and sharing among and beyond humanitarian networks.
2. Strengthen and properly resource the UN system to enable it to identify, monitor and respond to conflict-linked environmental threats.
3. Governments, international organizations and civil society must work together to progressively develop and encourage compliance with the legal framework intended to prevent environmental damage during conflicts and to remedy harm in their wake.
4. Improve the documentation of human rights violations and environmental crimes linked to wartime environmental harm and identify and develop effective remedies.
5. Ensure that the sustainable and equitable management of natural resources is fully integrated into post-conflict recovery planning and that long-term assistance is available to rebuild environmental governance in conflict-affected areas.
* Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy
* Atlantic States Legal Foundation
* Caribbean Youth Environment Network
* Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa
* CooperaciÃ³n Comunitaria
* Disaster Waste Recovery
* Eco Ethics Kenya
* Environmental Law Institute
* Environmental Justice Foundation
* Environmentalists Against War
* European Environmental Bureau
* Groupe Urgence, RÃ©habilitation, DÃ©veloppement
* Human Rights Now
* Human Environmental Association for Development
* Groupe d’Action pour la Promotion et la Protection de la Flore et la Faune
* Group Urgence, Rehabilitations, Developpement
* Human Rights Now
* Human Environmental Association for Development.
* International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons
* Norwegian People’s Aid
* Raising Gabdho Foundation
* Shanti Med Nepal
* Society of Doctors for Environment
* The Iraqi Environment & Health Society, UK
* Toxic Remnants of War Project
* Urban Resilience Platform
* World Against War
* Zoi Environment Network
* Piotr Barczak, Waste Policy Officer, (European Environmental Bureau)
* Dr Matthew Bolton (Disarmament Institute, Pace University)
* Dr. Robert Francies (Kings College, London, Reader in Ecology)
* Jasper Humphreys (Director of External Affairs, Marjan Centre, King’s College London)
* Dr. Dan McQuillan (Goldsmiths University London)
* Ndenneh Nying (National Environment Agency, The Gambia)
* Marie ThÃ©rÃ¨se MerhejSeif, Green Party of Lebanon, President HEAD.
* Prof. Richard Sullivan (King’s College London, Director Conflict & Health Research Group)
* Steve Trent (Environmental Justice Foundation)
* Alexander Verbeek (Planetary Security Initiative)
Launch of Massive Online Open Course on
Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace
The Environmental Peacebuilding platform will be launching registration for its new MOOC for practitioners and decision makers on conflict and the environment. The MOOC is based on a highly successful series of books containing 600 case studies on the environment throughout the cycle of conflicts. If you’d like to help support its launch, there’s more info below.
ACTION: The course begins on 1 March 2018 but enrolment/registration officially begins 6 November.
Conflicts over natural resources and the environment are among the greatest challenges in 21st century geopolitics. These conflicts present serious threats to human security at both the national and local levels. Natural resources and the environment can nonetheless serve as a vehicle for peace if managed in a sustainable and equitable manner.
Environmental peacebuilding has emerged as a new frontier in interdisciplinary studies. It offers a conceptual and operational framework to understand the positive peacebuilding potential of natural resources across the conflict lifecycle while mitigating potential risks.
This 8-week massive open online course (MOOC) on Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace provides an in-depth introduction to the multiple roles that natural resources and the environment play in the onset, escalation, and resolution of, and recovery from, violent conflicts. Many of the considerations and approaches in this course are also relevant to understanding and addressing social conflicts around natural resources and the environment.
This course is for:
Peace and security specialists that want to understand more about natural resources.
Natural resource experts that want to design more conflict-sensitive programs.
Sustainable development practitioners as well as private sector actors that need to understand how natural resources can be developed in fragile contexts with weak governance.
Advanced undergraduates and graduate students interested in the key concepts and practices of this growing field.
Lee Hill Snowdon Professor of Environmental Policy, Duke University
Director, Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Development, University of California Irvine
Deputy Director, CIESIN, Earth Institute, Columbia University
Head of Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding Programme, UN Environment
Director, International Programs, Environmental Law Institute
Coordinator: Women, Natural Resources and Peace, UN Environment
Professor of International Affairs, American University