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)
Supported by 22 signatories; see supplementary information.