Why Legal Principles On War And Environment Matter

1The armed conflicts in the Congo have been partially driven by the struggle for control of the country's vast natural resources, including gold, diamonds and timber, most of which is exploited using hard manual labour. Photo by REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly.

By UN Environment

Many of us remember shocking images of environmental destruction from conflicts across the globe; from the spraying of the poisonous chemical Agent Orange over the forests in Viet Nam in the 1970s to the burning oil wells in Kuwait in the 1990s.

Sadly, Viet Nam and Kuwait were not isolated cases. Armed conflicts around the world, and their aftermath continue to impact the health and well-being of people and the environment through pollution, infrastructure damage and the collapse of governance. The use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict as well as the burning of oil fields by the Dae’sh terrorist group are poignant recent examples.

Since 1999, the United Nations Environment Programme has conducted over twenty post-conflict assessments, using state-of-the-art science to determine the environmental impacts of war. From Afghanistan to Kosovo to the Gaza Strip and Sudan—armed conflict causes significant harm to the environment and the communities that depend on natural resources. Read more>>


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