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

06/11/2017 (All day)

On 5 November 2001, the UN General Assembly declared 6 November of each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict (A/RES/56/4).

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 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 peacebuilding 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 UNEP/EA.2/Res.15, 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”.

Message from the United Nations Secretary-General

War is a dirty business.  Smoke plumes from burning oil wells, looted industrial facilities, abandoned munitions and collapsed buildings are among the hallmarks of conflict.

Whether caused by fighting or a breakdown in government control, the damage to the environment has devastating consequences for people’s health and well-being.  It is not a new problem, but is one that can last for decades.  Areas of Europe are still affected by heavy metal contamination from munitions used during the First World War.

To survive a conflict and rebuild their lives afterwards, people need a healthy environment.  It offers food, shelter and work.  Its shared management provides a route for neighbours to maintain or improve relations.

This International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict is an opportunity to recognize the environment as yet another victim of war.  It is also an opportunity to take steps to reduce the collateral damage of conflicts and protect the natural resources that are so crucial for sustainable development.  The United Nations is committed to protecting the environment as an essential pillar of peace, security and sustainable development.

Message from UN Environment Executive Director

People have always fought over land and resources. When they do, our environment is often a silent victim.

The statistics show that natural resources like land, water and minerals have been a significant factor in at least 40% of civil wars over the last 70 years.

The sick children, blackened livestock and polluted land and water around the burning oil fields of Iraq show what that actually means.

But increasingly, the environment has another role - that of building peace after conflict.

Harnessing natural resources sustainably can help rebuild livelihoods, communities and economies. 

Cooperating over shared resources or common environmental challenges can rebuild trust among divided communities.

So, today is the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.

But let’s also not forget the power of environmental cooperation to drive peace and prosperity.

To learn more, please visit the UN Environment website and enroll to our new Massive Open Online Course on Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace.

UN Environment launches online course on environmental security and sustaining peace

UN Environment and partners are pleased to announce a new massive open online course on environmental security and sustaining peace. The course was developed in Geneva by UN Environment’s Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch in collaboration with a range of international partners.

The announcement comes on International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, which aims to prevent the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources from fueling conflict or threatening peace.

Course trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVEyIYKAuV0

Conflicts over natural resources are among the greatest challenges in 21st century geopolitics, and present serious threats to human security. At least 40 per cent of all internal armed conflicts over the past 65 years have had an important natural resource dimension. Since 1989, more than 35 major armed conflicts have been financed by revenues from conflict resources. In the coming years, extreme climate stresses are expected to double the risk of violent conflict.

Despite the risks that war and armed conflict pose for the environment and the role that natural resources may play in fueling or amplifying armed conflicts, there are also significant opportunities linking the environment and peacebuilding.

UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim said: “Today is the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. But let’s also not forget the power of environmental cooperation to drive peace and prosperity”.

Indeed, knowledge and experience regarding the important role of natural resources and the environment in post-conflict peacebuilding has grown immensely over the past two decades.

Building on these experiences, UN Environment has teamed up with the Environmental Law Institute, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Duke University, and the University of California at Irvine to develop a groundbreaking new massive open online course on Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace.

Offered on the SDG Academy platform, the course synthesizes 100,000 pages of material and 225 case studies from over 60 post-conflict countries into seven hours of dynamic video lectures. The course is based on the experiences and lessons learned of over 1,000 experts and 10 UN agencies.

The goal is to build a new community of 10,000 practitioners that can make natural resources a reason for cooperation rather than conflict,” Erik Solheim said.  

The course covers a range of natural resources, from extractives to land and water, as well as a range of tools and approaches from conflict and gender sensitivity to assessments, meditation and spatial planning. All UN staff members working on peace and security or on natural resources and the environment are encouraged to enroll.

Enrollment opens on 6 November at:  http://bit.ly/envt-peace

The 10-week course begins on 1 March 2018 and ends on 10 May 2018.