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 […]

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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; […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Lifecycle versus the law – defining the environmental impact of weapons

Lifecycle versus the law – defining the environmental impact of weapons

This blog considers the extent to which we can use international humanitarian law (IHL) to define or judge the environmental impact and acceptability of weapons. How do weapons damage the environment? Should we be thinking only in terms of their direct impact, or should we focus on how weapons are used? Or do we also need to take a more holistic approach, one that considers their impacts on the environment from production to disposal? During the debate among states over the International Law Commission’s (ILC) ongoing study on strengthening protection for the environment […]

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Online identification of conflict related environmental damage

Online identification of conflict related environmental damage

In this blog, Wim Zwinenburg (PAX) and Eliot Higgins (Bellingcat) discuss the open source intelligence tools that they used to recover data on environmental damage during the ongoing conflict in Syria for PAX’s recently published report Amidst the Debris. With the conflict in Syria soon to enter its fifth year, large parts of the country have been laid to waste by intense fighting, bombardment and shelling. Understandably, most of the focus has been on the fighting and the direct victims of armed violence, with rather less on other impacts and […]

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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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