The UNEP estimates that at least 40 per cent of all internal conflicts have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources over the past 60 years. November 6th is the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. The United Nations attaches great importance to ensuring that action on the environment is part of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace building strategies - because there can be no durable peace if the natural resources that sustain livelihoods and ecosystems are destroyed.
THE International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict is observed annually on November 6. The International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict was established on November 5, 2001 by the United Nations General Assembly, during the late Kofi Atta Annan's tenure as Secretary-General. Of this observance Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has since written, "We must use all of the tools at our disposal, from dialogue and mediation to preventive diplomacy, to keep the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources from fueling and financing armed conflict and destabilizing the fragile foundations of peace." Various calendars found on the World Wide Web reference November 6th in abbreviated fashion as 'World Day to Protect the Environment in War'.
Traditionally in times of warfare and conflict, success had been gauged by the number of dead and injured, together with the level of destruction to cities and livelihoods. The UN felt that the time had come to consider environmental issues that had previously gone unpublicised, but were still significant victims of war.
These include water supplies that had been polluted, crops that had been burnt or otherwise destroyed, forests that had been cut down, soils poisoned and animals killed, all in the name of gaining military advantage.
A significant fact that was discovered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) was that since the end of World War II, 40 per cent of all internal conflicts have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources. These range from high value resources such as timber, gold, diamonds and oil, to scarce resources such as fertile land and water.
Conflicts involving natural resources have also been found to be twice as likely to recur in the future.
This is of particular concern to the UN and great importance is attached to ensuring that action on the environment is an important part of conflict prevention, and building strategies to ensure an enduring peace. There is little hope of any durable peace in a region if there has been destruction of the natural resources that sustain its ecosystems and the livelihoods of its people.
Politicians will usually be very quick to justify going to war, but the fact remains that whatever its justification, war will always result in untold misery and unspeakable horror for combatants and civilians alike. War can destroy in minutes what has often taken generations to achieve and beyond the human suffering war can also be devastating to the environment.
to replace the lost forest and to restore the shattered country. These efforts have met with great success, but what a tragedy that they have been necessary in the first place.
We need to highlight the environmental consequences of war and to stress the importance of neither exploiting nor heedlessly damaging ecosystems, simply in the name of pursuing military objectives.The environment has been described the "silent casualty" of warfare.
Since time began, men have been developing evermore sophisticated and efficient ways of killing each other. Although international treaties have banned some of the more dreadful methods, never has much consideration been given to maltreatment of the environment during wartime, or to the consequences of its systematic extermination.
Today's generation have responsibility for this safeguarding; if this is neglected, the next generation may find that much of the environment as we now know it will have gone for ever.