State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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

By Marc Levy

Marc Levy is deputy director of CIESIN and an Adjunct Professor at The School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University. His training is in political science, and he has published on environmental sustainability indicators, environment-security connections, the effectiveness of international environmental institutions, on social learning and environmental policy-making.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon drew attention to the central role that war and peace play in the quest for sustainable development. In recognition of the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, the secretary-general issued a statement that should be required reading for everyone thinking about the next generation of international development goals. In the statement Ban said,

War and armed conflict shred the fabric of sustainable development. They expand poverty, stunt opportunity and undermine fundamental human rights. No conflict-affected country has yet achieved a single Millennium Development Goal. As we look beyond the 2015 MDG deadline, we must recognize peace and security as a critical ‘fourth dimension’ of sustainable development.

The message is also noteworthy for drawing attention to the growing research evidence and policy recommendations that effective management of environment and natural resources can play a valuable role in advancing the goal of sustainable peace.

Let’s hope that, as the international community moves forward with plans for a set of sustainable development goals, these insights are taken to heart.

This article is one in a series emerging from the conference, “Identifying Lessons for Natural Resource Management in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding,” held at Columbia University April 25, 2012, and co-hosted by the Earth Institute and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), UNEP, ELI, the University of Tokyo, and McGill University; in cooperation with the Advanced Consortium for Conflict, Cooperation and Complexity and the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment. For more information about the conference and the book series, please go to
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