6 November 2011
Since the declaration, ten years ago, of the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, the UN family has made important progress in understanding the complex relationship between war and the environment, and the role that natural resources play in fuelling and financing instability and violence.
From Sierra Leone to Timor-Leste, countries have been helped to mitigate the environmental risks to building peace and to harness the economic potential of using their natural resources sustainably. However, there is still major cause for concern. The environment continues to be among the casualties of warfare. At the same time, the demand for natural resources continues to grow to meet the needs of a rising global population. Fragile nations, including post-conflict countries, could face significant resource competition in the coming decades. This will only be exacerbated by the predicted consequences of climate change on water availability, food security, sea-level rise and population distribution.
Strengthening national capacity for transparent, equitable and sustainable management of natural resources will continue to be an important part of peacekeeping and peacebuilding, as well as our overall development support to Member States. Given their critical role in supporting countries emerging from conflict, United Nations peacekeeping operations are well-placed to positively influence how the environment is protected and natural resources are managed. This can start with minimizing the environmental footprint of our own operations.
As we mark this International Day, let us recognize the wide-ranging and long-term consequences of damaging the environment – both in peace and times of war. And let us reaffirm our commitment to the sustainable management of natural resources as a critical element of durable peace and security.