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 […]

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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 […]

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Why our human rights depend on turning conflict into conservation

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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. […]

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States back further progress on conflict and environment in UN legal debate

States back further progress on conflict and environment in UN legal debate

Earlier this month, States in New York debated the latest report from the International Law Commission’s (ILC) ongoing study into the “protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts” (PERAC). This blog takes a look at what States said, considers some of the key themes that are emerging, and the future of the ILC’s work on PERAC following the imminent departure of the topic’s Special Rapporteur Dr Marie Jacobsson. The ILC added PERAC to its programme of work in 2013, in part thanks to a recommendation in a 2009 […]

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UN Special Rapporteur calls for action on TRW to protect children

UN Special Rapporteur calls for action on TRW to protect children

This month, Baskut Tuncak, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and toxics, presented the findings of his report on the effects of hazardous substances on the lives of children around the world to the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council. His conclusions were bold and brave for their implications on conflict: States should take responsibility for cleaning-up of the toxic remnants of war and provide medical aid to affected communities and individuals afterwards. Environmental pollution as result of warfare is a topic of growing of concern among […]

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UN lawyers present revised post-conflict environmental protection principles

UN lawyers present revised post-conflict environmental protection principles

What should parties to a conflict and international organisations do to help protect the environment and those who depend on it from the effects of war? Nine new principles proposed by the UN’s International Law Commission seek to answer this question by distilling existing law and practice on everything from information sharing and the rights of indigenous peoples to tackling the toxic remnants of war. This blog takes a look at the new draft principles and assesses their potential contribution to environmental and civilian protection. Back in July, we published […]

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UN legal experts consider principles guiding environmental protection after conflicts

UN legal experts consider principles guiding environmental protection after conflicts

The International Law Commission has just published its third report on the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts (PERAC). Its Special Rapporteur is charged with the unenviable task of trying to distil state practice, and the norms from disparate bodies of law, into a set of draft principles that capture how States, their militaries and international organisations should address the environmental impact and legacy of armed conflict. This blog takes a look at the process, and considers the Special Rapporteur’s latest draft principles. UNEP’s 2009 report on […]

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