Press Releases

    8 November 2005

    Sustainable Peace Best Defence against Degradation, Secretary-General Says in Message to Mark Day for Preventing Wartime Exploitation of Environment

    NEW YORK, 7 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message on the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflicts yesterday, 6 November:

    Alongside the tragic human and economic costs of war, the environmental fall-out is also profound.  At times, natural resources are deliberately destroyed as a tactic.  But more often than not, the environment is simply another innocent victim caught in the crossfire.  The poor, as usual, suffer disproportionately, as they rely most heavily on the environment not only for food but also for medicine, livelihoods, and materials for shelters and homes.

    Addressing the environmental damage caused by war is an integral aspect of post-conflict reconstruction and recovery, and is thus a growing focus of UN activities.

    After the war in the former Yugoslavia, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) cleaned up four chemically contaminated sites in Serbia and Montenegro.

    Currently in Afghanistan, UNEP is helping to build the country's Environmental Protection Agency and has carried out extensive post-conflict studies to help focus rehabilitation of livelihoods.

    The Mesopotamian marshlands straddling Iraq and Iran were almost completely destroyed by the year 2002, with hundreds of thousands Marsh Arabs forced to flee their lands and abandon their traditional way of life.  In cooperation with the local communities, the marshlands have now been reflooded by 40 per cent, and 80,000 inhabitants have returned home.

    By helping those caught in conflict to regain their lands and livelihoods, and most of all to become custodians of their environment, we give them the tools for building the foundation for sustainable peace, which is ultimately the best defence.  On this international observance, I call on all concerned to redouble efforts aimed at preventing the exploitation and degradation of the environment during times of war.

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