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The Secretary-General Message on the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict - 6 Nov 2003

All wars are destructive -- to people, to countries and to the environment. That is why the Geneva Conventions and Protocols and other international laws discourage the worst excesses of armed conflict, including the targeting of civilians, the mistreatment of prisoners of war, and the destruction of sensitive infrastructure such as large dams and nuclear power stations.

However, with the increasingly devastating potential of modern warfare, it has become apparent that existing international laws do not fully address the danger that conflict poses to the environment. That danger takes many forms, including the indiscriminate use of landmines, the ecological destruction caused by mass movements of refugees, and the potential devastation threatened by weapons of mass destruction. While instances in which the environment is deliberately targeted are relatively few, there remain too many grey areas where more care could, and should, be exercised to protect the environmental base on which sustainable development and recovery from conflict largely depend.

I therefore urge the international community to examine how legal and other mechanisms can be strengthened to encourage environmental protection in wartime. Ensuring environmental sustainability is not a luxury; it is a prerequisite for the future peace and prosperity of our planet.