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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

Do the ILC’s draft principles on remnants and data sharing reflect state practice?

Do the ILC’s draft principles on remnants and data sharing reflect state practice?

A new report from PAX and ICBUW on the legacy of depleted uranium use in the 2003 Iraq War could help inform the debate initiated by the International Law Commission this summer on the emerging legal principles for the post-conflict management of toxic and hazardous remnants of war. The report – Targets of Opportunity – makes use of recently released targeting data from US A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft to map and analyse the use of 30mm depleted uranium (DU) ammunition in the first month of the 2003 conflict. In doing […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

South Sudan’s broken oil industry increasingly becoming a hazard

South Sudan’s broken oil industry increasingly becoming a hazard

The environment has long been a factor in violent conflict in South Sudan, especially with respect to control over oil. The first oil was discovered in 1999, and by 2007, hydrocarbons accounted for over 95 percent of Sudan’s income. South Sudan became independent in 2011 after years of war with the Sudanese government in Khartoum, intensified by local conflicts over access to oil-rich border areas. But beyond conflict, South Sudanese communities have also been ringing the alarm bell about pollution and health hazards caused by the oil industry. PAX’s Wim […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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; […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

Fire and oil: The collateral environmental damage from airstrikes on ISIS oil facilities

Fire and oil: The collateral environmental damage from airstrikes on ISIS oil facilities

As the United States, Russia, and others step up attacks on the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), there is concern over their direct and long-term environmental and public health impacts. Many air strikes have targeted lucrative oil installations under the control of ISIS, and these could have severe detrimental effects for Syria’s future, both environmentally and socio-economically. Questions around the effectiveness of these strikes, both from a military and political perspective, seem to be missing in the wider debate. Although essentially forbidden by the Geneva Conventions, attacks on […]

Read More