Un Secretary-General's Message for 2009
Released on november the 6th 2009:
More than thirty
years since the massive defoliation campaigns of the Viet Nam War, and
nearly twenty since the extensive pollution caused by the destruction
of 600 oil wells in Kuwait at the end of the first Gulf War, the
environment continues to fall victim to armed conflict worldwide.
Decades of protracted conflict in the Gaza Strip, for example, have so
severely affected groundwater supplies upon which 1.5 million
Palestinians depend for drinking and agriculture that those supplies
are in danger of imminent collapse.
Furthermore, in at least 18 conflicts since 1990, natural
resources have played a significant role. In Liberia and the
Democratic Republic of Congo, diamonds, timber and gold have been
exploited by armed groups to finance and prolong conflicts. The
consequences for the environment and development have been devastating.
While the environment and natural resources enjoy protection
under several important international legal instruments – such as the
Geneva Conventions – the implementation and enforcement of these
instruments remains very weak. There are few international mechanisms
to monitor infringements or address claims for environmental damage
sustained during warfare.
Because the environment and
natural resources are crucial for building and consolidating peace, it
is urgent that their protection in times of armed conflict be
strengthened. There can be no durable peace if the natural resources
that sustain livelihoods are damaged or destroyed.
I call on
Member States to clarify and expand international law on environmental
protection in times of war. Existing legal instruments should be
adapted to reflect the predominantly internal nature of today’s armed
conflicts. We need also to consider mechanisms for monitoring
violations and recommending sanctions and actions for enforcement,
recovery and compensation. Furthermore, national legislation must
fully reflect provisions of international criminal law that allow for
the prosecution of environmental violations during armed conflict.
this International Day, let us renew our commitment to preventing the
exploitation of the environment in times of conflict and to protecting
the environment as a pillar of our work for global peace and