for Preventing the Exploitation of Environment in War and Armed
Message by H. E. Jan Kavan, President of the 57th Session of
the General Assembly
6 November 2002
is the first year that we celebrate the International Day for
Preventing the Exploitation of Environment in War and Armed
Conflict. United Nations General Assembly established this day
in order to strengthen awareness and vigorously prevent or condemn
warfare that deliberately exploits or destroys the environment
that is our most precious and life sustaining global public
good. It was therefore encouraging that last year the international
community established this day to focus world attention on this
have to admit that the exploitation of nature as a tool in armed
conflict is nothing new in human history. In our past history,
there are examples of setting fires, poisoning of water-resources
or razing of crops or other forms of destroying the environment,
that were practiced by warring parties to annihilate livelihoods
and inflict humiliation and defeat on the enemy. In the past,
the destruction of environment and natural resources affected
the civilian population disproportionately to the combatants
or armies. In the current and recent conflicts around various
regions, with the advances of technology and information, we
have witnessed the destruction of environment on much larger
scales affecting much larger populations. The consequences are
felt by whole societies and nations. With increasing capabilities
in lethal warfare, this type of threat and destruction cannot
be ignored anymore.
me address the serious threats, where a response of the international
community is needed to avoid long-term and sometimes irreparable
consequences of the exploitation and destruction of nature during
conflict often takes place in areas of critical biodiversity.
The situation is even worse when the exploitation of nature
and resources is the objective of the conflict, or is a means
to finance armed conflict. Therefore it is necessary to protect
resources vulnerable to illegal exploitation in conflict situations,
such as timber, minerals, water, fish, ivory and so on.
deliberate destruction of environment or large-scale destruction
of natural resources during conflict is another serious threat.
The negative impact of burning oil fields during and after the
Gulf War, which led to massive pollution of water and air, and
contamination of soil, is one such example of the deadly consequences.
Also rainforests are most at risk and subject of deliberate
destruction and chemical deforestation.
we should not forget the long-term damage that may be caused
by use of weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear
and biological weapons. Their indiscriminate impact can lead
to an environment hostile towards many forms of life. Entire
species may be wiped out. Their interaction with living forms
threatens to alter the very basis of life, as we know it today
through mutations or destruction of the genome code.
World Summit on Sustainable Development has clearly shown that
there are many threats we have to face. In this regard, we have
to avoid any further escalation of this situation through exploitation
of environment in war and armed conflict. The only viable course
of action, which would allow us to leave a sound planet to our
heirs and their progeny, is to take preventive measures more
vigorously and resolve disputes peacefully.