Saving the Environment, Saving People and Building Peace

June 4, 2020

People suffer from conflicts even after the fighting is over. Toxic pollutants released in the fighting can have devastating and long-term effects. Conflict-related environmental damage can affect the soil and food we eat, the air that we breath and water we drink and use to grow crops.

PAX is highlighting the importance of environment and conflict as we mark World Environment Day. Around the world, citizens, grass-roots activists, United Nations organisations, faith leaders and many others reflect on the state of our environment in a rapidly changing world. The environment is an important part of PAX’s work on peacebuilding and conflict prevention. Throughout our programmes in Colombia, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Sudan, South-Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen, environmental dimensions of armed conflicts are essential to lives, livelihoods and the security of our partners and people affected by them.

Wars and armed conflicts can also cause large-scale deforestation, while the lack of environmental regulation harms nature reserves. This leads to severe loss of bio-diversity and wildlife in these areas. Environmental issues are understandably often not a priority, yet are essential in humanitarian response and recovery work. Nature is key to restoration of lives, livelihoods and the future of conflict-affected communities. Re-building should be greener and better. Improved natural resource management can facilitate environmental peacebuilding and address climate security risks.

Therefore, PAX works to make the UN Environmental Assembly stronger and more effective in improving protection of the environment in armed conflicts. We brief UN Member States in the Security Council to encourage them to address these problems through better data collection and sharing, effective environmental cooperation in humanitarian response, and the greening of peacekeeping operations. On the ground, PAX works in Syria and Iraq with local partners to identify environmental issues from conflict and search for solutions and clean-up operations.

We believe in positive change to prevent, minimize and mitigate the environmental impacts of conflicts. This helps protect civilians and restore nature. We welcome UN Environment ‘s work in the search for a nature-based solution to clean-up oil pollution in Iraq, and with the development of Peace Forests Initiative to address conflict-linked deforestation.

Today is a day #ForNature, and PAX joins the call along with many civil society groups to States, international organisations and the United Nations to #ActNow. Saving the environment is saving our future and building peace.

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