War, conflict big foes of sustainable development

By Chen Xuefei (
Updated: 2011-04-07 11:03
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War and conflict is the largest enemy of sustainable development because it wipes out the basis for development, both for developing countries and developed countries. Sustainable development refers to reasonable use of water, land and preventing the air, land and water from being polluted. It is also about leaving some resources for future generations.

Air, water and soil are the basic resources mankind relies on for improving their living standards. In modern society, energy is another important resource.

Yet, if there is war and conflict, all these resources can become a bottleneck for development. With war, all the development opportunities can disappear.

Looking back at history, Sweden and Switzerland are two small countries that have experienced more than 100 years of peace and development. Thus it is not surprising that the two countries are quite developed and strived to realize sustainable development early on.

On the contrary, war and conflict prevented many countries from being developed or even dragged down their living standards. Why?

First, war and conflict can cause great damage to infrastructure. This is typical phenomena in the former Yugoslavia, in Iraq, and now possibly in Libya. Many years of development can be damaged over a very short period of time.

Second, war and conflict can cause great damage to people’s psyches. I met a woman from the former Yugoslavia and I asked how she felt about the Yugoslavian war. She said even now she couldn’t understand why it was bombed and why all her family’s property were lost. Many people lost jobs after the war.

That kind of psychological trauma caused a lot of people to lose their beliefs and feel aimless in life.

In Iraq, many people were left with psychological problems after the war. Some people like to say that they are doing humanitarian aid, but they don’t want to face the fact that their action actually created a lot of humanitarian disaster.

Third, war and conflict leads to lack of water, lack of food and lack of medicine. For example, in Darfur a few years ago, due to the conflict, some of the already few wells were poisoned. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in the Middle East, some people said it was due to the lack of water that the war started, but it is also obvious that due to the war, water supply in those areas can only be reduced. Normal production and development opportunities were taken away due to the conflict and war.

Again it is the common people who are suffering from these conflicts and wars. When there is no peaceful environment, how can the world get rid of poverty? How can the people improve their sanitation and drinking water? Without a peaceful environment, how can people improve their living standards?

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