The “peace dividend” expected by many to result from the end of the Cold War has not paid off in terms of reduced violent conflict. Indeed, the recent nuclear weapons tests by India and Pakistan demonstrate the continuing potential for highly destructive war. Some countries are facing generalized lawlessness and banditry, by marauding ex-soldiers in several African nations, drug cartels in some parts of Latin America, and organized crime in various parts of the former Soviet Union. Tensions in the Middle East, parts of Africa, Central America, Ireland, Southeastern Europe, and Indonesia are further indications that war is a continuing fact of modern life.
Despite these widespread threats to national sovereignty, governments are obliged under Article 1 of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity to conserve their own biodiversity, and under Article 3 to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the biodiversity of other states. Any negative impacts of war on biodiversity are clearly contrary to this international agreement, though this constraint cannot be expected to carry much weight with belligerent powers; NATO apparently did not consider biodiversity in their bombing plans over Kosovo, judging from the results. But what, specifically, are the impacts of war on biodiversity? This chapter attempts to identify some of the key issues in preparing a balanced assessment of this question.
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