Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for preventing the exploitation of the environment in times of conflict, stressing that protecting nature can help countries create employment opportunities, promote development and avoid a relapse into hostilities.
In his message on the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, which is observed on 6 November, Mr. Ban said that the UN is studying the environmental impacts of conflicts around the world, from the Balkans to Afghanistan, from Lebanon to the Sudan.
“We have seen how environmental damage and the collapse of institutions are threatening human health, livelihoods and security,” he stated. “These risks can also jeopardize fragile peace and development in post-conflict societies.”
The Secretary-General noted that in Afghanistan, warfare and institutional disintegration have combined to take a major toll. In a clear case of environmentally induced displacement, tens of thousands of people have been forced from rural to urban areas in search of food and employment.
“There can be no durable peace in Afghanistan if the natural resources that sustain livelihoods and ecosystems are destroyed,” he stressed.
At the same time, the environment and natural resources are crucial in consolidating peace within and between war-torn societies, Mr. Ban added, noting that several countries in the Great Lakes Region of Africa established transboundary cooperation to manage their shared natural resources.
“The United Nations attaches great importance to ensuring that action on the environment is part of our approach to peace,” Mr. Ban stressed. “Protecting the environment can help countries create employment opportunities, promote development and avoid a relapse into armed conflict.
“Let us renew our commitment to preventing the exploitation of the environment in times of conflict, and to protecting the environment as a pillar of our work for peace.”