UN calls for better protection of environment to ensure healthy planet

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon bids farewell to United Nations

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 6 (APP): UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon Sunday underscored the need for shared duty of care towards the environment in peace time and during war to ensure a healthy planet.
“Poor governance of the environment and natural resources can
contribute to the outbreak of conflict. It can fuel and finance existing conflicts and it can increase the risk of relapse. Conversely, there are many examples of natural resources serving as catalysts for peaceful cooperation, confidence building and poverty reduction,” the secretary general said in his message to mark the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.
The UN chief noted that in the aftermath of violent conflict, natural
resources, such as land, timber, minerals, oil and gas, are often the primary assets that governments need to support livelihoods and economic recovery.
“How governments manage these resources can fundamentally alter the
course of post conflict peacebuilding,” the Secretary General said, underscoring the need to work together to combat environmental crime, end the illegal exploitation of natural resources, improve transparency, share benefits more equitably and encourage the participation of women, indigenous peoples and vulnerable groups in decision making.
The important message of the 2030 Agenda is that “sustainable
development cannot be realized without peace and security; and peace and security will be at risk without sustainable development.” Therefore, this year, all 193 Member States of the UN Environment Assembly adopted a resolution committing States to the protection of the environment in areas affected by armed conflict.
In addition, the UN International Law Commission is going over the
legal framework to establish guidelines to better support environment preservation, particularly in protected areas, and environmentally
sensitive sites, especially drinking water aquifers, that are vital to humans.
“On this International Day, I urge governments, businesses and citizens around the world to prioritize environmental care and the sustainable management of natural resources for preventing conflict, building peace and promoting lasting prosperity,” stated the Secretary General.
Further, in a separate joint statement, two top UN officials warned
that in recent weeks in Iraq, oil wells have been set ablaze, turning the skies and soil black. Burning stockpiles of sulphur dioxide at an industrial facility created a large toxic cloud.
The crisis highlights a phenomenon that has been playing out for
decades. Environmental destruction can impact the delivery of
humanitarian assistance, the prospects of post war recovery and lasting peace, and can serve as a driver of migration, according to the UN humanitarian and environment chiefs.
“Among the unprecedented 65 million refugees in the world, many will
have a story that includes ecocide. Wars are starting because of natural resources. They are being perpetuated because of natural resources. And we are seeing the environment being used as a weapon,” UN Environment head Erik Solheim said. “Environmental protection needs to take a more prominent role in our response to conflict.”
The International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict aims to highlight these links and prompt action.
“Families fleeing from Mosul have been impacted by years of living
under ISIL and by the ongoing military operation, leaving them in urgent need of humanitarian aid and protection. Choking clouds and toxic fumes from burning oil wells and industrial facilities now add to their plight,” Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under Secretary General for
Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said.
“Protecting the environment during conflicts is critical to protecting human health and also the ability of communities and nations to recover after crises.”
“Protecting the environment from armed conflict protects farmlands
from the impacts of bombings, landmines and toxic pollution,” Solheim
said. “It safeguards a fair and inclusive system for governing and using natural resources. It ensures healthy lives for ourselves, for our
children, and for generations to come.”