The Offices of the United Nations

The Offices of the United Nations

In recognition of the United Nations designation of today as “International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict,” I stopped by some of that organization’s offices in D.C. on this bike ride. Although the organization’s headquarters is located New York City, there are also offices in D.C. and throughout the world, including the United Nations Foundation at 1750 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.; the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Office, at 1775 K Street (MAP) in northwest D.C., and; the United Nations Offices in D.C. at 2175 K Street (MAP), also in northwest D.C. 

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization established in 1945 to promote international cooperation. It replaced the ineffective League of Nations, an organization that had previously been created following World War II to prevent another such conflict. The United Nations originally had 51 member states, but there are now 193.

Though mankind has always counted its war casualties in terms of dead and wounded soldiers and civilians, destroyed cities and livelihoods, the environment has often remained an unpublicized casualty of war as well. There are numerous instances in which water wells have been polluted, crops torched, forests cut down, soils poisoned, oil fields set on fire, and animals killed to gain a military advantage. And new technologies that are used for war, such as chemical and nuclear weapons, means that the destruction and damage of the environment is more serious and the long-term consequences in terms of impairing ecosystems and natural resources can be worse, with the potential to last long after the period of conflict.

The United Nations has found that over the last 60 years, at least 40 percent of all conflicts have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources, whether high-value resources such as timber, diamonds, gold and oil, or scarce resources such as fertile land and water. Conflicts involving natural resources have also been found to be twice as likely to relapse.

By designating November 6th of each year as International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, it is intended to educate people about the damaging effects of war and armed conflict on the environment. On this day, many people around the world, including government officials, scientists, journalists, educators, and business people, observe the day by spending time discussing how the effects of war are damaging to the natural environment, and how everyone can work together to find ways to limit environmental destruction caused by armed conflict and war, because a durable peace is less likely if the natural resources that sustain livelihoods and ecosystems are destroyed.

Preventing war by saving the environment is a concept that would be difficult for anyone to oppose.

UN03        UN02


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