International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict

“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.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s words embody a day dedicated to acknowledging the human influence on the environment, and one that serves as a reminder of our responsibility to preserve our planet. Declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2001, November 6 has been recognized as an International Day ever since, and provides a platform for one to recognize a commonly-looked influence of war and armed conflict: environmental exploitation.

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. 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.

As a McMaster community as well as a local, national and global community, November 6 is our opportunity to promote conflict prevention and acknowledge the devastating influence conflict has had, not only on thousands of lives but on the world that supports and provides for us as a whole.

Fighting over our planet’s riches is purposeless if we lose its riches in the process. Step up to the plate and take this as an opportunity to promote peace and raise awareness in your community today: after all, big changes begin with small steps.