In his message today to mark the International Day for preventing exploitation of the environment, United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon said, Geneva Conventions Protocol 1 protects the environment but, “this protection is often violated during war and armed conflict.”
“Water wells are polluted, crops torched, forests cut down, and soils poisoned, and animals killed, all in order to gain military advantage. The draining of the marshlands of the Euphrates-Tigris Delta during the 1990s deliberately targeted the ecosystem for political and military goals,” he said.
“From the Balkans to Afghanistan, from Lebanon to Sudan,” the UN Sec Gen explained “the United Nations is studying the environmental impacts of conflict across the world. We have seen how environmental damage and the collapse of institutions are threatening human health, general livelihood and security.”
Ki-Moon said that these risks can also jeopardize fragile peace and development in post-conflict societies, adding 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,” he intimated. The Sec Gen opined that the environment and natural resources are crucial in consolidating peace within and between war-torn societies. “Several countries in the Great Lakes Region of Africa established trans-boundary cooperation to manage their shared natural resources. Lasting peace in Darfur would depend in part on resolving the underlying competition for water and fertile land. Hence there can be no durable peace in Afghanistan if the natural resources which sustain livelihoods and ecosystems are destroyed,” Ki-Moon maintained. The United Nations, the Sec Gen said, “attaches great importance to ensuring that action on the environment is part of the approach to peace,” adding that protecting the environment could help countries create employment opportunities, promote development and avoid a relapse into armed conflict. “On this International Day, let us renew our commitment to prevent the exploitation of the environment in times of conflict and to protect the environment as a pillar of our work for peace,” he accentuated.