Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message on the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, observed on 6 November:
War is a dirty business. Smoke plumes from burning oil wells, looted industrial facilities, abandoned munitions and collapsed buildings are among the hallmarks of conflict.
Whether caused by fighting or a breakdown in Government control, the damage to the environment has devastating consequences for people’s health and well‑being. It is not a new problem, but is one that can last for decades. Areas of Europe are still affected by heavy-metal contamination from munitions used during the First World War.
To survive a conflict and rebuild their lives afterwards, people need a healthy environment. It offers food, shelter and work. Its shared management provides a route for neighbours to maintain or improve relations.
This International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict is an opportunity to recognize the environment as yet another victim of war. It is also an opportunity to take steps to reduce the collateral damage from conflicts and protect the natural resources that are so crucial for sustainable development. The United Nations is committed to protecting the environment as an essential pillar of peace, security and sustainable development.