Environmental issues are increasingly visible in countries affected by conflict. In southern Iraq, protests erupted over water contamination that has affected , people and which had been caused by years of conflicts, increasing water scarcity and mismanagement.
The UN Security Council has recognised the role that climate change and environmental degradation have played in fuelling conflict in the Lake Chad region. In Somalia, the long-running conflict is being sustained by a vicious cycle of overharvesting for the charcoal trade and the degradation of agricultural lands. The signatories argue that recognising the importance that environmental security plays for human security before, during and after conflicts is vital and should drive policy development.
In doing so, they highlight the importance of properly integrating the environment into conflict prevention, into the analysis of conflicts, into humanitarian response and into post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding.
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Today, our group of concerned civil society organisations, which includes academics, experts and scientists, are calling for the international community to enhance the protection of people and ecosystems by taking meaningful steps towards addressing the environment throughout the cycle of conflicts. Environmental issues are increasingly at the forefront of armed conflicts across the world, directly affecting the lives of people, disrupting ecosystems, impairing the resilience of communities and impeding post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding.
In the conduct of hostilities, breaches of international humanitarian law, international human rights law and international environmental law often threaten the environment and, by extension, human life, health and livelihoods. Throughout the last year, we have witnessed numerous examples of the means through which environmental degradation and damage can threaten the security of people and states. In Iraq, the legacy of years of conflict, weak governance and climate change has resulted in water pollution that has hospitalised more than ,, generating popular protests and a violent response, while wildfires sparked by military activities have destroyed large swathes of forests in Kurdish areas of Iraq, Iran and Turkey.
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In Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the environment and its resources continue to be damaged and degraded by the occupation and the conflict. In eastern Ukraine and Crimea, where the ongoing threat of an ecological disaster due to conflict, weak governance and crumbling infrastructure should be a motivating force for cooperation, politicisation and propaganda continue to stand in the way of progress. In Yemen, damage and disruption to water infrastructure and agricultural areas have contributed to its cholera outbreak and its food security.
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