Natural resources, plunder and reparations in the DRC, how the ICJ is setting precedents

Natural resources, plunder and reparations in the DRC, how the ICJ is setting precedents

What might reparations for the illegal exploitation of natural resources in armed conflict look like? This question may soon be answered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the final episode of its long-running Armed Activities Case. In the meantime, Eliana Cusato considers the main legal findings of the ICJ in its landmark judgement, and the contribution of the World Court towards determining accountability for the pillage of natural resources. The armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been one the longest and most violent […]

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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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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 […]

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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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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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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 […]

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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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