War and armed conflict has many damaging effects on the natural environment. For example, crops are destroyed, water supplies are poisoned and forests are burnt. New technology that is used for war means that the destruction and damage of the environment is more serious and the long-term consequences can be worse.
On the 5th of November 2001, the UN General Assembly declared the 6th of November of each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. Though mankind has always counted its war casualties in terms of dead and wounded soldiers and civilians, destroyed cities and livelihoods, the environment has often remained the unpublicized victim of war. Water wells have been polluted, crops torched, forests cut down, soils poisoned, and animals killed to gain military advantage.
Furthermore, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has found that over the last 60 years, at least 40 percent of all internal conflicts have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources, whether high-value resources such as timber, diamonds, gold and oil, or scarce resources such as fertile land and water. Conflicts involving natural resources have also been found to be twice as likely to relapse.
The United Nations attaches great importance to ensuring that action on the environment is part of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace building strategies - because there can be no durable peace if the natural resources that sustain livelihoods and ecosystems are destroyed.
On 27 May 2016, the United Nations Environment Assembly adopted resolution which recognized the role of healthy ecosystems and sustainably managed resources in reducing the risk of armed conflict, and reaffirmed its strong commitment to the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals listed in General Assembly resolution 70/1, entitled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
We at the World Assembly of Youth believe that the 6th of November is an opportunity for everyone to reflect on the role of war on damaging natural environments and discuss ways to limit environmental destruction caused by armed conflict. WAY attaches great importance to ensuring that action on the environment is part of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace building strategies because there can be no long lasting peace if the natural resources that sustain livelihoods and ecosystems are destroyed.
We urge you all to renew your commitment to jealously protect our planet from the debilitating effects of war and especially at a time our warming planet is already threatened by the impacts of runaway climate change.