“As global population rises and the demand for resources grows, the potential for conflicts over resources could intensify. The impacts of climate change may exacerbate these threats. In response, we will need to develop new thinking on sources of insecurity and ensure that our preventive diplomacy takes into account the trans-boundary nature of ecosystems and environmental degradation.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message on the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation
of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.
6 November 2010
UNEP experts sampling water during the post-conflict assessment in the Gaza Strip. UNEP provides field-based assessments of the environmental impacts of crises on human health, livelihoods and security. UNEP Photo/2009
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. Six United Nations agencies and departments, coordinated by the UN Framework Team for Preventive Action, have partnered with the European Union (EU) to help countries reduce tensions over natural resource and use environmental management for peacebuilding and conflict prevention.