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Secretary General Urges Efforts to Limit Exploitation of Environment in Times of War, Armed Conflict

This is the text of a message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan to mark the first observance, on 6 November 2002, of the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict:

Today marks the first observance of the International Day for Preventing Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly.

War not only causes human suffering. It can also be devastating to the environment. Long after peace has been restored, the negative environmental impacts of conflict often remain.

The United Nations is now regularly invited to assess how conflict affects the environment. Such missions have identified a wide range of environmental consequences of war, including pollution from oil and chemical leaks caused by bombing; the unregulated plunder of natural resources by armed forces; the danger to land, livelihoods and lives caused by landmines, unexploded ordnance and other war debris; and the negative impact of mass population movements on water, biodiversity and other ecosystem services.

International conventions govern nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, but new technologies -- such as depleted uranium ammunition -- pose as yet unknown threats to the environment. Damage to the environment in war is also an impediment to the restoration of peace and rebuilding of society.

The lesson to be drawn is that modern warfare needs environmental rules, just as earlier wars highlighted the need to regulate the impact of war on civilians and prisoners of war.

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- 2 - Press Release SG/SM/8463

ENV/DEV/7706

OBV/303

28 October 2002

Every effort must be made to limit the environmental destruction caused by conflict. While environmental damage is a common consequence of war, it should never be a deliberate aim. The international community must unreservedly condemn all deliberate destruction of the environment during conflict.

But we must also protect the environment in peacetime. Respect for the environment is essential for our common future. It is the duty of every person, every organization and every government to help preserve the Earth's riches for the generations who will succeed us. That is the only battle we should be fighting.