Flag Raising Ceremony Speech
On November 5th 2001, the UN General Assembly declared the 6th of November of each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.
Though mankind has always counted its war casualties in terms of dead and wounded soldiers and civilians, destroyed cities and livelihoods, the environment has often remained the unpublicized victim of war. Water wells have been polluted, crops torched, forests cut down, soils poisoned, and animals killed to gain military advantage.
The toll of warfare today reaches far beyond human suffering, displacement and damage to homes and infrastructure. Modern conflicts also cause extensive destruction and degradation of the environment. In turn environmental damage, which often extends beyond the borders of conflict affected countries, can threaten the lives and livelihoods of people well after peace agreements are signed.
Public concern regarding the targeting and use of the environment during wartime first peaked during the Vietnam War. The use of the toxic herbicide Agent Orange, and the resulting massive deforestation and chemical contamination it caused, sparked an international outcry.
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 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.