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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UNEA-2 passes most significant UN resolution on conflict and the environment since 1992

UNEA-2 passes most significant UN resolution on conflict and the environment since 1992

After five months of negotiations, a resolution from Ukraine on the protection of the environment in areas affected by armed conflict has been approved by consensus at the second meeting of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in Nairobi. The resolution, which was co-sponsored by Jordan, the DRC, Iraq, South Sudan, Norway and Lebanon, is the most significant UN resolution of its kind since 1992. As the text was submitted to the plenary for final approval, Canada, and the EU and its Member States unexpectedly joined Ukraine as co-sponsors. Back in […]

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We need to define “the environment” to protect it from armed conflict

We need to define “the environment” to protect it from armed conflict

If we want to strengthen the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts, we need to define what we mean by “the environment” – is it a natural thing, a human thing, a cultural thing or is it all these things and more? Laurence Menhinick considers how different entities and legal regimes tackle this question, and what we should take into account when trying to define what it is we want to protect. The 1982 World Charter for Nature states that: “Nature shall be secured against degradation caused […]

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Environmental protection and non-state armed groups: setting a place at the table for the elephant in the room

Environmental protection and non-state armed groups: setting a place at the table for the elephant in the room

In this blog, consultant Jonathan Somer begins to explore the terra incognita of current efforts to strengthen legal protection for the environment in relation to armed conflicts – the role of non-state armed groups, their policies and doctrine and why they must be part of any solution – in spite of the objections of some states. Since 2012, the International Law Commission (ILC) has been collecting state practice[1] in order to draft principles on the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict. This is not surprising, as traditionally […]

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What states said on conflict and the environment at the UN last week and why it matters

What states said on conflict and the environment at the UN last week and why it matters

Last week, quite a lot of governments said quite a lot of things about 2015’s report from the International Law Commission on legal protection for the environment during armed conflicts. This blog takes a look at what was said, who said it, why it matters and what it tells us about the hopes for more effective protection for the environment from the impact of armed conflict. Shortly after the UN’s Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, the UN General Assembly’s Sixth Committee (legal matters) […]

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New report: Environmental Mechanics – Re-imagining Post-conflict Environmental Assistance

New report: Environmental Mechanics – Re-imagining Post-conflict Environmental Assistance

To mark the UN’s environment and conflict day 2015, the Toxic Remnants of War Project has published a major new report that explores how a more formalised system of post-conflict assistance could increase the protection of civilians and their environment, and help to create and strengthen norms against environmentally destructive military behaviours. Why have we written it? For the last forty years, legal scholars have been debating how legal protection for the environment before, during and after armed conflict could be strengthened. Since 2009, the debate has been given added […]

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Introducing the Toxic Remnants of War Network

Introducing the Toxic Remnants of War Network

Damage to the natural environment has long been a hallmark of conflict. But technological developments, both in terms of how hostilities are conducted, and the locations in which wars are fought, are increasing the risk of serious long-term environmental damage, and with it, threats to the civilian population. From Ukraine, to Libya, Iraq, Syria and Gaza, environmental damage is threatening lives and livelihoods and increasing the vulnerability of communities. There is a consensus view among legal scholars and, increasingly, international organisations and some states, that International Humanitarian Law’s current provisions […]

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Which states are progressive on conflict and the environment?

Which states are progressive on conflict and the environment?

The first tentative moves to strengthen legal protection for the environment before, during and after armed conflict are underway – and not before time. With everything to play for, we take a look at a scientifically unrepresentative sample of governments to see who’s progressive, and who would rather the international community stuck with a status quo that does little to protect the environment or the civilians who depend on it. In previous blogs, we’ve looked at the distant and more recent history of efforts to strengthen protection of the environment […]

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Whatever happened to the 5th Geneva Convention?

Whatever happened to the 5th Geneva Convention?

The acceptance that legal protection for the environment from the ravages of armed conflict needs improvement has a long history. During the last three decades, initiatives have repeatedly flowered, only to wither and die in seminars and conference rooms, while wartime environmental damage continues largely unchecked. What lessons should a new generation wishing to tackle the topic take from past failures? As we reported earlier this month, Ukraine needs to find $30m to cover the cost of a two year programme of urgent environmental assistance, doubtless millions more will be […]

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The Ukraine conflict’s legacy of environmental damage and pollutants

The Ukraine conflict’s legacy of environmental damage and pollutants

One year after violent conflict began, information is now emerging on the specific environmental impact of war in Ukraine’s highly industrialised Donbas region. Although obtaining accurate data is difficult, indications are that the conflict has resulted in a number of civilian health risks, and potentially long-term damage to its environment. In order to mitigate these long-term risks, international and domestic agencies will have to find ways to coordinate their efforts on documenting, assessing and addressing the damage. The environmental legacy of conflict and military activities is rarely prioritised in post-conflict […]

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