London conference highlights opportunities to improve environmental response to conflict pollution in Iraq

London conference highlights opportunities to improve environmental response to conflict pollution in Iraq

As the dust settles from the battle to recapture Mosul, and the urgent humanitarian crisis reaches its peak with millions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in desperate need of medical help, shelter food and water, Iraq is beginning to reflect on the extent of the damage inflicted by the battle against the so-called Islamic State (IS). Beyond the immediate needs of IDPs, it is becoming clear that recovery and reconstruction will be a huge challenge, requiring billions of dollars to rebuild the country. One element that will need to be addressed writes […]

How armed conflicts impact the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions

How armed conflicts impact the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions

Since 1989, the Basel Convention, and later the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, have played an important role in international efforts to minimise the health and environmental threats from chemicals and hazardous wastes. However, their implementation relies heavily on the ability of states to ensure robust domestic environmental governance. Armed conflicts and insecurity commonly disrupt the capacity of states to adequately respond to the pollution threats that may arise from them, and to oversee or implement environmental regulations. This blog examines how conflicts interact with the conventions, and how they challenge […]

Whose responsibility is it anyway? Environmental obligations in the nuclear ban treaty

Whose responsibility is it anyway? Environmental obligations in the nuclear ban treaty

We’re just over halfway through the negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons and, while some campaigners and states seem generally happy with the progress being made on the draft text, there are too few voicing concerns that its environmental dimensions have been neglected. This matters because the treaty is intended first and foremost as a humanitarian instrument, and yet protecting fundamental human rights requires that the environment that people depend upon is also protected. But in addition to the mechanics of how this can best be achieved, there lies a deeper question – who is […]

Understanding gender, conflict and the environment

Understanding gender, conflict and the environment

Last year’s landmark UNEA-2 resolution on conflict and the environment, the most significant of its kind since 1992, was the product of tough negotiations. Fortunately however, a hard-fought reference on gender made the final version of the text: ‘further recognising specific negative effects of environmental degradation on women and the need to apply a gender perspective with respect to the environment and armed conflicts’. Alexandria Reid suggests that the reference itself is unquestionably a positive step. But to effectively incorporate this gender perspective in future policy, we need to do […]

The nuclear ban treaty needs work if it’s to deliver on the environment

Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Blog, Legal, News, Policy | No Comments
The nuclear ban treaty needs work if it’s to deliver on the environment

The current diplomatic process towards a convention banning nuclear weapons is a remarkable breakthrough. It’s also an opportunity to reset the difficult historical relationship between nuclear weapons, and the international law intended to protect the environment in relation to armed conflicts. This blog analyses the environmental elements of the newly published draft ban treaty but in doing so it finds that there is room for improvement, if states and civil society hope to truly deliver on their humanitarian and environmental objectives. In March this year, 132 states began negotiations on […]

Why our human rights depend on turning conflict into conservation

Posted by on Mar 24, 2017 in Blog, Environmental damage, Legal, Policy | No Comments
Why our human rights depend on turning conflict into conservation

Biodiversity hotspots cover just 1.4% of the planet’s surface, yet 80% of major armed conflicts between 1950 and 2000 occurred in these areas. This figure should be striking, but the connections between the environment and conflict continue to be overlooked. With the recent release of a UN report stressing the direct relationship between biodiversity and human rights, Alex Reid asks whether it’s time for us to reassess our understanding of the links between armed conflict, human rights and conservation. In 2010, Lord Robert May asked an unusual question for a […]

New data on Ukraine conflict’s environmental risks supports calls for comprehensive assessment

New data on Ukraine conflict’s environmental risks supports calls for comprehensive assessment

With the threats that the Ukraine conflict poses to the environment once again in the news, Zoï Environment Network has released new maps on the environmental consequences of the conflict. With both sides increasingly conscious of the humanitarian and ecological impact of the war, plans to minimise risks and encourage sustainable reconstruction are being promoted. However, without a comprehensive assessment of the damage, such proposals are of limited value. This blog reviews Zoï’s latest research and argues that absent a UN-led assessment, civil society should be encouraged to plug the […]

Mainstreaming the environment in peace and security

Posted by on Feb 24, 2017 in Blog, Health, Legal, Mine action, Policy, UNEP | No Comments
Mainstreaming the environment in peace and security

Everyone recognises the importance of environmental mainstreaming. It’s a problem that is particularly acute for conflict and the environment, where the environment is rarely prioritised before, during or after conflicts. In turn this influences how we frame the issues we work on, and it also influences how we work, often content with modest progress from one project to the next. The barriers we face are systemic, which begs the question – do we need to change the system? One of the more curious aspects of current debates on conflict and […]

The environment and conflict in 2016: a year in review

The environment and conflict in 2016: a year in review

Marking the UN’s international day on conflict and the environment in November, the Special Rapporteur tasked with reviewing and developing the law protecting the environment before, during and after conflict argued that 2016 was “…set to be a milestone in global efforts to protect the environment in connection with armed conflict.” But it has also been a year where such efforts have seemed more vital and urgent than ever. This blog takes a look back at conflict and the environment in 2016, at the progress made and considers what should […]

The environmental consequences of Iraq’s oil fires are going unrecorded

The environmental consequences of Iraq’s oil fires are going unrecorded

Oil facilities have been targeted during conflicts since the start of mechanised warfare. It is a practice that can have serious consequences for the environment and human health. Oil fires started by Islamic State in northern Iraq have now been burning for months, exacerbating an already serious humanitarian crisis, but right now nobody seems to be monitoring their impact on the ground. The oil fires burning in and around the northern Iraqi town of Qayyarah began in July when retreating Islamic State forces ignited wells, storage tanks and a refinery. […]