Call for new Geneva convention to protect wildlife and nature reserves in conflict regions:
An open letter signed by 24 prominent scientists from around the world and published in the journal Nature calls for a new Geneva Convention that would hold governments responsible for the environmental damage their militaries inflict in war zones.
Here is the full wording of the letter:
“The United Nations’ International Law Commission is meeting this month to push forward a 2013 programme to protect the environment in regions of armed conflict (go.nature.com/2ewdyj). We call on governments to incorporate explicit safeguards for biodiversity, and to use the commission’s recommendations to finally deliver a Fifth Geneva Convention to uphold environmental protection during such confrontations.
Despite calls for a fifth convention two decades ago, military conflict continues to destroy megafauna, push species to extinction and poison water resources (see, for example, J. C. Brito et al. Conserv. Lett. https://doi.org/gfhst9; 2018). The uncontrolled circulation of arms exacerbates the situation, for instance by driving unsustainable hunting of wildlife.
A Fifth Geneva Convention would provide a multilateral treaty that includes legal instruments for site-based protection of crucial natural resources. Companies and governments need to work together to regulate arms transfer (see go.nature.com/2lgtfx). And the military industry must be held more accountable for the impact of its activities.”
Nature 571, 478 (2019)
List of signatories:
Susan Canney University of Oxford, UK.
Sílvia B. Carvalho, Hugo Rebelo University of Porto, Portugal.
Teresa Abáigar Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas–CSIC (EEZA–CSIC), Almeria, Spain.
Walid Algadafi, Lynn Besenyei, Christopher H. Young University of Wolverhampton, UK.
Ali Berbash Environment General Authority, Tripoli, Libya.
Pierre Comizzoli Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute,Washington DC, USA.
Pierre-André Crochet University of Montpellier, France.
Soumía Fahd Université Abdelmalek Essaâdi, Tétouan, Morocco.
Hamissou H. M. Garba General Direction for Water, Forest and Wildlife, Niamey, Niger.
David Mallon Glossop, Derbyshire, UK.
Abdullah Nagy Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt.
John Newby Sahara Conservation Fund–Europe, Bussy Saint Georges, France.
David Olson WWF-Hong Kong, Manhattan Centre, Hong Kong.
Nathalie Pettorelli Zoological Society of London, UK.
Juan M. Pleguezuelos University of Granada, Spain.
Abdeljebbar Qninba Mohammed V University of Rabat, Morocco.
Abdoulkarim Samna Department of Wildlife, Hunting and Protected Areas, Niger.
Alaaeldin Soultan Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, Egypt.
Andack S. Sow Department of Environmental Control, Nouakchott, Mauritania.
This issue is also covered in other articles, as follows:
The latter piece by the World Economic Forum gives further details of the research leading up to the decision to publish a letter in Nature:
Sarah M. Durant of the Zoological Society of London and José C. Brito of the University of Porto in Portugal drafted the letter. The 22 other signatories, mostly from Africa and Europe, are affiliated with organizations and institutions in Egypt, France, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Libya, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and the United States.
The idea for adding environmental protections to the Geneva Convention first arose during the Vietnam war when the U.S. military used massive amounts of Agent Orange to clear millions of acres of forests which had long term adverse consequences on human health, wildlife populations and soil quality. Work on the idea picked up in earnest in the early 90s when Iraq burned Kuwaiti oil wells and the U.S. fired off bombs and missiles with depleted uranium, which poisoned Iraqi soil and water.
The effects of conflict have been proven recently in the Sahara-Sahel region, where cheetahs, gazelles and other species have suffered rapid population loss due to the spread of guns following Libya’s civil war. Conflicts in Mali and Sudan have correlated with an uptick in elephant killings.