Protect civilians by protecting the environment

Image: Oil fire in Qayyarah, in Mosul District, Iraq, 9 November 2016 wikicommons

November 6, 2017

PAX is joining 30 organizations and 12 experts in calling for greater progress to protect people and the environment from the impact of war.

Today, on the United Nation’s International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict , these NGOs and experts have set out five priorities for the international community that would minimise harm to people and the environment they depend on.

Highlighting the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, the signatories argue that conflict pollution and damage to ecosystems and natural resources pose immediate threats to human health and threaten reconstruction and peacebuilding.

The signatories include humanitarian, environmental, legal and development organisations, as well as experts in healthcare and conservation.

Signs of progress
The call comes amid signs that governments are beginning to consider the environmental causes and consequences of conflicts. Next month at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi governments will vote on an Iraqi resolution on conflict pollution. The so-called Islamic State set fire to over 20 oil wells in the country, which burned for more than eight months

At the United Nations Security Council, climate change is increasingly accepted as a risk factor for triggering conflicts, alongside the exploitation of natural resources. The United Nations’ International Law Commission has been tasked with reviewing the weak state of legal protection for the environment before, during and after conflicts. Meanwhile the need for greater consideration of environmental risks by organisations responding to the humanitarian crises caused by conflicts was on the agenda of humanitarian organisations at the United Nations’ Environment and Emergencies Forum this September.

Welcome developments
The signatories welcomed these developments, as well as new platforms for educating decision-makers on integrating environmental protection into post-war policies but argued that progress must be accelerated. Priority areas include increasing the United Nations’ capacity to monitor and respond to environmental risks, and supporting the progressive development of international law.

Read the joint statement

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