6th Nov is the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed ConflictOur environment is the innocent bystander


Ranjan K Baruah
We have seen wars all over the world including World Wars which have devastated many places and many lives. There may not be big wars at present but wars and conflicts are happening in many places of the world. The issue and attack in Israel, Palestine or Russia and Ukraine are being witnessed by all of us.  Many lives are gone and places are destroyed and we can see the casualties in terms of numbers. Casualties may be wounded or may be dead which includes soldiers and many innocent civilians. At the same time water wells have been polluted, crops torched, forests cut down, soils poisoned, and animals killed to gain military advantage. Have we ever wondered what happens to our environment due to all conflicts or wars ?
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has found that over the last 60 years, at least 40 percent of all internal conflicts have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources, whether high-value resources such as timber, diamonds, gold and oil, or scarce resources such as fertile land and water. Conflicts involving natural resources have also been found to be twice as likely to relapse.
The United Nations ( UN) attaches great importance to ensuring that action on the environment is part of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding strategies, because there can be no durable peace if the natural resources that sustain livelihoods and ecosystems are destroyed.
There is no doubt that a clean and healthy environment is required to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Efforts to counter the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste must be ramped up in order to truly transform societies and economies for everyone, everywhere.
On 5 November 2001, the UN General Assembly declared 6 November of each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict by resolution A/RES/56/4. On 27 May 2016, the United Nations Environment Assembly adopted resolution UNEP/EA.2/Res.15, which recognized the role of healthy ecosystems and sustainably managed resources in reducing the risk of armed conflict, and reaffirmed its strong commitment to the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals listed in General Assembly resolution 70/1, entitled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
Saving future generations from the scourge of war was the main motivation for creating the United Nations, whose founders lived through the devastation of two world wars. Since its creation, the UN has often been called upon to prevent disputes from escalating into war, or to help restore peace following the outbreak of armed conflict, and to promote lasting peace in societies emerging from wars.
We are already facing challenges due to climate change or climate crisis and it is essential to protect the environment to preserve peace. Any armed conflicts bring a negative impact to our environment and the planet. On the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, we recognize the environment as yet another victim of war.  Now it is time to take action and bring an end to conflicts to safeguard our environment as we must remember that we do not have any other planet to live on.
There must be political will amongst countries to bring an end to wars. We have seen conflicts in many parts of our region and recently things are moving towards positivity as violent conflicts are not seen like before. Together we can do well for our environment as it cannot speak but just remain as victims of wars and conflicts. Let us together work for our environment and contribute towards achieving SDGs.   
(With direct inputs from UN publication and feedback may be sent to [email protected])