"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."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Abandoned war utilities in South Sudan. Photo credit: United Nations Environment Programme Disasters & Conflicts Sub-Programme
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.
Upcoming reports and highlights
- Addressing the Role of Natural Resources in Conflict and Peacebuilding: A Summary of Progress
- Natural Resources and Conflict: A Guide for Mediation Practitioners launched
- ILC second report on the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts
- UNEP's Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment of Côte d'Ivoire released
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.