Statement by UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner on the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment during War and Armed Conflict Fri, Nov 6, 2015

Every year, for the last 14 years, the world has designated 6 November to acknowledge the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment during War and Armed Conflict.

While we have not been able to resolve conflict or environmental exploitation, today we better understand the complex interactions between them, particularly the way they cut across the core UN mandates for peace and security, human rights, sustainable development, humanitarian assistance and international law.

Better understanding means better support for mediators, peacekeepers and development agencies trying to anticipate, manage and rebuild after conflict. Since 2008, UNEP's Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding programme has been using field expertise from over 20 post-conflict environmental assessments to help governments and civil society assess and respond to both the risks and opportunities connected with the exploitation of natural resources.

Our growing experience has created a sound appreciation of the deep-seated tensions that underpin many conflicts associated with natural resources, which make them more likely to relapse into conflict in the first five years after a peace agreement has been signed.

However, at every stage, we have seen the importance of impartial scientific and technical information in engaging stakeholders from all sides. That is why, over the last six years, the Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding programme's ambitious work plan has involved collect¬ing evidence, developing policy and catalyzing the up-take of new practices and innovative pilot projects in the field for the UN's peace and security architecture.

From all of this work, one thing is very clear: much remains to be done in raising awareness and understanding of the inextricable connection between conflict and the environment.

Today, some 60 million displaced people are already fleeing conflict and disaster. The only way to avoid those numbers swelling even further is to grasp the opportunities offered by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the climate negotiations in Paris. Evidence-based policy and global political agreements will take us so far, but on this International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment during War and Armed Conflict, I ask the media for their support in raising awareness, the private sector for their support in leveraging opportunities and the general public for their support in driving change from the ground up.

 
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