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

The UN has declared 6 November as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.

‘Wars and armed conflicts damage the environment and the natural resources that societies are completely dependent on. People who are fleeing their homes often put an extra strain on ecosystems when the numbers that have to share scarce resources suddenly increase. Environmental degradation makes reconstruction and normalisation much more difficult. That is why we are involved in UN efforts in this area, both politically and by providing financial support,’ Foreign Minister Børge Brende said.

There are many instances of armed conflicts causing irreparable damage to the environment. The oil fires that were deliberately started during the Iraq war in 1991 caused terrible environmental degradation and polluted vast areas. In Afghanistan, pistachio production has been in important source of income for large parts of the population. But after 30 years of war and armed conflict, more than half of the pistachio trees in the country have been destroyed. In addition, the current conflict in Syria has contaminated agricultural land and drinking water.

Norway is one of the largest contributors to the work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in this field.  

At the most recent meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), Norway, together with a group of other countries, headed the negotiations leading to a resolution that states should protect the environment during times of war. This resolution, which was adopted by consensus, calls on states to implement all relevant international law related to protection of the environment in war and armed conflict. The resolution also invites member states to cooperate closely on protecting the environment.