During wartime, hundreds of people are killed or injured, cities are destroyed, and people are divided. One of the biggest victims that people tend to overlook is the environment. Forests are cut down, water is polluted, crops are torched, toxic remnants from explosives contaminate soil, and animals are killed. We affect the environment as much as it affects us.
In November 2001, the UN declared November 6 International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. In past decades, war and armed conflict have led to the loss of many natural resources. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “In the last 60 years, 40% of all conflicts have been linked to exploitation of natural resources like timber, gold, oil, or scarce resources like water and fertile land.”
Conflicts involving natural resources are known to relapse twice as much compared to other conflicts. The UN has acknowledged that with a healthy ecosystem and managed resources, the probability of conflict is significantly reduced. This year, the UN debated 27 principles for the Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict and will eventually vote on these principles. If the majority vote for the 27 principles to be passed, then this is a major step forward. This sets up a better framework for protecting the environment before, during, and after any armed conflict.
Protecting the environment is necessary for peacebuilding, preventing conflict, and aiding in sustainable development. Peace cannot exist without natural resources. With the current invasion of Ukraine, the environment there is suffering. According to Olena Sydorenko, an official at an environmental agency, “attacks on fuel and industrial facilities have caused chemicals to leach into rivers and groundwater…before the war there was never this much oil in the soil and water.” (Garza). Another big issue going on in Ukraine is the fires caused by shelling. Some of these fires are almost the size of Texas and have affected more than half a million acres of land and different ecosystems.
International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict is important because protecting the environment is vital for maintaining peace. Peace can be affected if natural resources that support ecosystems and people’s livelihoods are gone. Conflicts can arise if natural resources become scarce.
Taking care of the environment around you is one way to help. Cleaning up any trash, and planting trees and flowers all help in little ways. One of the best ways to help out is by spreading awareness of this day to others. ss
Garza, A. de la. (2022, October 19). Ukraine wants Russia to pay for war's environmental impact. Time. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from https://time.com/6222865/ukraine-environmental-damage-russia/
International Day for preventing the exploitation of the environment in war and armed conflict. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2022, from https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/un/day-preventing-environment-exploitation-in-war
Mohsin, H. (2022, November 4). International Day for preventing the exploitation of the environment in war and armed conflict. National Today. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from https://nationaltoday.com/international-day-for-preventing-the-exploitation-of-the-environment-in-war-and-armed-conflict/
United Nations. (n.d.). International Day for preventing the exploitation of the environment in war and armed conflict. United Nations. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from https://www.un.org/en/observances/environment-in-war-protection-day