How armed conflicts impact the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions

How armed conflicts impact the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions

Since 1989, the Basel Convention, and later the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, have played an important role in international efforts to minimise the health and environmental threats from chemicals and hazardous wastes. However, their implementation relies heavily on the ability of states to ensure robust domestic environmental governance. Armed conflicts and insecurity commonly disrupt the capacity of states to adequately respond to the pollution threats that may arise from them, and to oversee or implement environmental regulations. This blog examines how conflicts interact with the conventions, and how they challenge […]

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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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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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What the absence of the environment in SDG16 on peace and security should tell us

What the absence of the environment in SDG16 on peace and security should tell us

The international community is currently underperforming when it comes to integrating the environment into matters of peace and security. Climate change and contemporary armed conflicts are forcing a re-evaluation of this at times complex relationship but in general, the environment remains under-prioritised – as evidenced by its absence from Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But could the process towards the SDGs as a whole finally encourage greater consideration of the environment throughout the conflict cycle – as both a question of state security, and human security. Goal […]

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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 […]

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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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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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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 […]

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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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