The international community needs to take bold actions before, during and after armed conflicts to protect people and the environment.
That is the call being made today by 102 NGOs and experts from 33 countries to mark the UN day on conflict and the environment.
A number of serious incidents in armed conflicts have harmed people and the environment recently. This has occurred even though more attention than ever is being paid to how environmental factors can lead to conflicts, how the environment is affected by conflicts, and how the environment can help restore peace. But this increased attention has yet to translate into meaningful change on the ground.
The NGOs behind today’s statement are active in the fields of human rights, humanitarian disarmament, development and environmental protection, and are joined by leading experts in conservation, international law, public health, peacebuilding and other fields.
Wim Zwijnenburg, Project Leader for PAX on Conflict and Environment: “We have witnessed the severe environmental degradation and pollution in the various conflict areas PAX is working in. This has affected the health and well-being of communities, and their opportunities to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. The international community should step up their efforts to rethink military operations, improve research into environment dimensions of armed conflict and mainstream environment in humanitarian response. We need a robust, international coordinated and comprehensive mechanism to ensure this happens timely and swiftly.”
The signatories welcome the trend to recognize the important links between the environment, peace and security, citing UN-led efforts to strengthen the laws protecting the environment in relation to armed conflicts, and to establish a climate security mechanism. They also welcome the increasing recognition of the role of the environment in the protection of civilians, and steps to mainstream the environment in post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding.
New constituencies have also engaged on the topic, with conservation experts recently calling for measures to protect biodiversity in areas affected by conflict. The signatories argue that this momentum for change has been underpinned by a growth in understanding about the connections between the environment and armed conflicts.
It is vital that the international community builds on this momentum to ensure that the environment is accepted as a critical component of peace and security. To do so, governments should draw on the knowledge of civil society, experts and communities to help develop policies that can protect human health and ecosystems, and restore damaged environments.
November 6 is the UN’s Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, which aims to increase awareness of the environmental dimensions of armed conflicts.
Read the statement here
Read “The environment has become a hostage of armed conflict” by Wim Zwijnenburg