Saturday, 28 November 2020

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The environment: a forgotten victim of war

war environment

05.11.2015 – The damage done during conflicts is often measured by the number of deaths and destroyed cities. However, the environment is usually heavily affected as well. Whether collaterally or deliberately, water wells and soils are polluted, forests and crops are ruined, and animals are killed.

Unequal distribution of scarce resources such as minerals or metals and fertile land or water are often the trigger of conflicts.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), “over the past 60 years, at least 40% of internal conflicts had a link to natural resources and since 1990 there have been at least 18 violent conflicts fuelled by the exploitation of natural resources. It is also the case that conflicts with a natural resource link are more likely to relapse within five years of a peace agreement”.

war environment 2Environmental depletion also creates environmental refugees, who are forced to flee to densely populated urban areas, which increases the risk of new conflicts.

To raise the public’s awareness of this unpublicised casualty of war, the UN marks 6 November of each year as the "International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict".

The UN takes the environment into account in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding strategies. As unequal distribution of environmental resources may provoke war, they are also key to stabilization and cooperation in war-torn societies, as their shared management is an opportunity for dialogue and reconciliation between rival groups. 


UNRIC’s Related Links:

•   International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict

•   United Nations Environmental Programme: UNEP

•   Documentary: Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives: The Environmental Footprint of War

Photo Credits:

•   Cover -  Photo: UN Photo/Tim McKulka

•   Second – Photo:  UN Photo/John Isaac


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