Jordan grapples with the environmental consequences of its refugee crisis

Jordan grapples with the environmental consequences of its refugee crisis

The massive flow of refugees fleeing the violence and atrocities of the Syrian conflict is creating huge political and logistical challenges for neighbouring countries. Amidst the urgency of the humanitarian response, the environmental footprint of these population surges has been less visible but, as Jordan is discovering, failing to address the impact of migration during response and recovery could have serious health, environmental and political consequences. Prior to the conflict in Syria, Jordan’s environment was already in a precarious situation. Its scarce water resources and sensitive, in places unique arid […]

What the environmental legacy of the Gulf War should teach us

What the environmental legacy of the Gulf War should teach us

February marked the 25th anniversary of the 1991 Gulf War’s end. The intensity and magnitude of the allied coalition’s offensive, followed by the systematic destruction of Kuwaiti oil wells by retreating Iraqi troops, led to an unprecedented environmental disaster. Yet within two months, and in a first for international armed conflict, a post-war claims and remediation mechanism ─ the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) ─ was in place. Its aim was to not only help neighbouring states recover from the personal and financial losses inflicted during the war, but also […]

Calculating the environmental benefits of peace in Colombia

Calculating the environmental benefits of peace in Colombia

Colombia’s environment has suffered widespread and severe damage as a result of half a century of armed conflict. With a peace agreement with FARC on the table, the government has been reviewing the financial costs of the damage – and the economic and environmental benefits of peace. By its own calculations, an end to the conflict could see the government saving US$2.2bn a year in addressing avoidable environmental damage. But a sustainable environment will first require a sustainable peace. The instability that led to Colombia’s 50-year conflict has its roots […]

Five years on: lessons learned from the environmental legacy of Syria’s war

Five years on: lessons learned from the environmental legacy of Syria’s war

This week the Toxic Remnants of War Network commemorates the beginning of the conflict in Syria. The devastation wrought upon the country has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, wounding many more and displacing millions across the region and beyond. They have left behind cities turned to rubble, ravaged towns and barren lands scarred by fighting. A recent study on Syria undertaken by the World Bank noted the enormous damage to health facilities, critical infrastructure, education and the economy. The conflict has not just been a humanitarian tragedy; […]

Armed conflict harms countries’ environmental performance

Armed conflict harms countries’ environmental performance

Improvements in global environmental monitoring are continuing to provide evidence showing that conflicts and insecurity have a persistent and negative impact on environmental governance. With governments now committed to the SDGs, these findings are reinforcing the urgency of addressing the environmental dimensions of armed conflict. Since 2006, Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) has been ranking the performance of national environmental policies using an increasingly detailed range of indicators. The index is split into environmental factors relating to human health, and those relating to what Yale calls ecosystem vitality. The […]

A healthy environment must be a human right – especially in armed conflict

A healthy environment must be a human right – especially in armed conflict

The question of whether a healthy environment is a human right has been occupying the minds of legal experts and governments since the 1980s. In spite of considerable progress, acceptance of the idea remains far from universal. Yet to the casual observer, the link seems obvious. Today, Prof. John Knox – the UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the environment will present his latest report on how these rights could be developed and implemented. We believe that the universalisation of […]

Blog: Conflicting views surface on UNEP’s work on armed conflicts ahead of UNEA-2

Blog: Conflicting views surface on UNEP’s work on armed conflicts ahead of UNEA-2

Last week in Nairobi, States were negotiating the resolutions that will be tabled at this year’s United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2), the second meeting of the now universal membership governing body of the UN Environment Programme. UNEA is intended to develop into the leading global authority on environmental matters, and conflict and the environment featured prominently on the agenda. Three draft resolutions were submitted for negotiation to the Open Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR) in Nairobi – essentially a prepcom for UNEA-2 – reflecting the growing international interest among […]

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 […]

Armed conflict, environmental protection and the Sustainable Development Goals

Armed conflict, environmental protection and the Sustainable Development Goals

Unless the international community does more to protect and restore the environment from the impact of armed conflict, many countries will fail to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, writes Doug Weir. This year will see the second biennial meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), the new, and it is hoped more politically influential incarnation of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Governing Council. One of UNEA-2’s joint themes this year is “delivering the environmental dimension of the Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs). The SDGs, which replaced the Millennium Development […]

Using citizen science to assess environmental damage in the Syrian conflict

Using citizen science to assess environmental damage in the Syrian conflict

For new and ongoing conflicts across the world, the need to document their impact on civilians and the environment upon which they depend is encouraging the development of new research tools and methodologies. Traditional approaches for monitoring environmental risks are notoriously reliant on field access for experts. But with civilians increasingly able to access the Internet and mobile networks, and with their growing use by warring parties, new opportunities are being created for the collection of environmental data, by experts and civilians alike.   Following on from the blog Online […]