IUCN statement on the situation in Gaza

13 January 2009 | News story

Like many other international organizations, the International Union for Conservation of Nature is supporting the call for an immediate cease-fire in the current military operations in Gaza. Political and military questions aside, IUCN believes that the serious humanitarian and environmental crisis unfolding in Gaza has to be addressed without delay.

Since the Gaza strip – one of the world’s most densely populated areas – is a territory under tremendous environmental stress, already beyond what even in ideal situations would be sustainable, the current conflict is making a dire situation tragic, both for human beings and for nature.

“What we are seeing in Gaza today is first and foremost a human tragedy,” said Ashok Khosla, President of IUCN. “The world is focusing, and rightfully so, on bringing about a cease-fire and addressing the most pressing humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population. But we cannot ignore the longer term impacts of the conflict on the environment and on the civilian infrastructures, which are so essential for the well-being of the Palestinian population.”

“IUCN is an organization dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity, which means life, all life,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN. “We are supporting the call for a cease-fire to stop the killing of innocent civilians. Gaza needs peace to address the many environmental problems threatening its future, and the first step is to stop the current escalation of the conflict with a permanent and enforceable cease-fire.”

IUCN is mindful that Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions prohibits the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended, or may be expected, to cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment. This protection includes a prohibition of the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause such damage to the natural environment and thereby to prejudice the health or survival of the population. It also prohibits attacks against the natural environment by way of reprisals.

Fragile ecosystems and the life they support are particularly vulnerable to armed conflict; the possible extinction of species, destruction of critical habitats and other irreversible losses caused by such conflict can lead to deeply undesirable and often highly unintended long-term consequences, both for nature and for society. The IUCN family therefore support calls on all parties to terminate hostilities and to initiate immediate steps to establish a regime of permanent peace that is more conducive to supporting all life in the region and to the well-being of all its inhabitants.