A peacekeeper tends to plant in the soil
A Nepalese peacekeeper with the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) plants a tree outside UNAMID Headquarters in El Fasher, Sudan.
Photo:UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran

Though humanity 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. 

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).

On 27 May 2016, the United Nations Environment Assembly adopted resolution UNEP/EA.2/Res.15, which recognized the role of healthy ecosystems and sustainably managed resources in reducing the risk of armed conflict, and reaffirmed its strong commitment to the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals listed in General Assembly resolution 70/1, entitled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

Partnerships

EU-UN Partnership on Land and Natural Resource Conflicts

Six United Nations agencies and departments (UNEP, UNDP, UNHABITAT, PBSO, DPA and DESA), coordinated by the UN Framework Team for Preventive Action, have partnered with the European Union (EU) to help countries identify, prevent and transform tensions over natural resource as part of conflict prevention and peacebuilding programmes.

Global Research Programme on Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and Natural Resources

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the Universities of Tokyo and McGill initiated a global research programme to collect lessons learned and good practices on managing natural resources during post-conflict peacebuilding. This four-year research project has yielded more than 150 peer-reviewed case studies by over 230 scholars, practitioners and decision-makers from 55 countries. This represents the most significant collection to date of experiences, analyses and lessons in managing natural resources to support post-conflict peacebuilding.

UN Partnership on Women and Natural Resources in Peacebuilding Settings

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equity and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) have established a partnership to collaborate on improving the understanding of the complex relationship between women and natural resources in conflict-affected settings, and make the case for pursuing gender equality, women’s empowerment and sustainable natural resource management together in support of peacebuilding. The first outcome of the collaboration is a joint policy report released on 6 November 2013.

If we are to achieve the SDGs, we need to act boldly and urgently to reduce the risks that environmental degradation and climate change present for conflict and commit to protecting our planet from the debilitating effects of war.

António Guterres

Resources

Documents

Policy Reports

Guidance Notes

UN System

Related Observances

To mark World Environment Day (5 June) the UN Mission in South Sudan launched an Umuganda Camp Cleanliness Campaign

Saving future generations from the scourge of war was the main motivation for creating the United Nations, whose founders lived through the devastation of two world wars. Since its creation, the UN has often been called upon to prevent disputes from escalating into war, or to help restore peace following the outbreak of armed conflict, and to promote lasting peace in societies emerging from wars.

 

Wind turbines against the colours of a sunset.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.

 

Geometric illustration with the Secretariat building at UNHQ, New York.

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.