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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State practice in the observance of environmental norms in implementing disarmament and arms control regimes

State practice in the observance of environmental norms in implementing disarmament and arms control regimes

Through reports submitted to the UN, Laurence Menhinick reviews state practice on the disposal and destruction of military materials and considers how well they reflect established environmental norms and the extent to which the environmental and health risks from military materials are recognised. The UN General Assembly resolution ‘Observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementation of agreements on disarmament and arms control’ was first introduced by Colombia, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1995. Originally inspired by two conventions that were already in force –the chemical and […]

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Conflict rubble: a ubiquitous and under-studied toxic remnant of war

Conflict rubble: a ubiquitous and under-studied toxic remnant of war

Andy Garrity examines the potential health impacts associated with exposure to pulverised building materials from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The health and environmental risks and management of conflict rubble have been raised in several UNEP post-conflict assessments but little data on its post-conflict health impact is available. The use of explosive force in urban areas poses a number of immediate and obvious risks to civilians. Increasing scrutiny is now being focused on the potential health risks from the toxic constituents of munitions but less well understood […]

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Report: Pollution Politics – power, accountability and toxic remnants of war

Report: Pollution Politics – power, accountability and toxic remnants of war

In the first of two major reports, Aneaka Kellay examines how the weakness of current international humanitarian law allows the generation of conflict pollution that can impact both civilian health and the environment for long after the cessation of hostilities. The report argues that a new mechanism is needed to prevent and remedy environmental damage, to increase accountability and improve post-conflict response and assistance.  The executive summary and recommendations are presented below, and the full text can be downloaded from here. Executive summary and recommendations Introduction Humanity’s dependency on the […]

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Event report: Protecting civilians means protecting the environment, 3rd April 2014

Event report: Protecting civilians means protecting the environment, 3rd April 2014

The Toxic Remnants of War Project organised a side event during the CCW Protocol V Group of Governmental Experts meeting in Geneva. The aim was to provide delegations and agencies with an overview of the TRW issue and focus in on two topics that the TRWP has recently worked on: the toxicological screening of munitions constituents and the need for more detailed environmental assessment in conflict and post-conflict settings. TRWP Project Manager Doug Weir provided an overview of the TRW framing, discussing how principles from human rights and environmental law […]

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Thoughts on the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict

Thoughts on the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict

The TRW Project was launched in response to a growing sense that an environmental dimension had been absent from the developing field of humanitarian disarmament. Just as peace and security are key to sustainable development, we believed that environmental concerns should be seen as fundamental considerations for states and civil society working towards improving the protection of civilians during, and after conflict. In much the same way, the UN formally established the need to consider the environmental impact of conflict in 2001, with November 6th chosen to mark the day: […]

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Harm prevention lessons from peacetime norms and standards

Harm prevention lessons from peacetime norms and standards

Industry and development are synonymous with potentially harmful chemicals, waste products and processes. Human or mechanical errors, or technical failures, can result in industrial accidents, which can threaten environmental and public health. Many of the substances involved in industrial processes and accidents are common to military activities and are therefore of relevance when assessing post-conflict environmental contamination. The legislation and conventions in place to prevent industrial harm to the environment, alongside the response and procedures in place to treat contamination are, at present, very different to those relevant to military […]

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TRW and reclaiming the protection of civilians under IHL

TRW and reclaiming the protection of civilians under IHL

Next week will see the conclusion of a series of high level workshops focused on reclaiming the protection of civilians under International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Since 2009, and at a series of regional workshops, states, international agencies and civil society have been discussing and identifying practical measures that may be taken by both military and civilian actors to ensure full compliance with existing IHL obligations. The final outcome document of the conference will be in the form of a list of recommendations. The TRW Project will be attending the conference […]

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