Ecocide: Developing a View from The Hague

The Hague, 5 November 2012

On 5 November 2012, the Institute for Environmental Security and Ecojust organised the workshop ‘Ecocide: Developing a View from The Hague’. The event was held at the Institute in The Hague and was attended by eighteen international legal and environmental experts. Special guest speaker was Ms Polly Higgins, advocate and leading voice in the Eradicating Ecocide campaign.

The event provided an opportunity to exchange information and insights concerning ecocide – defined by the Eradicating Ecocide campaign as ‘the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished’.

The focus was on discussing the matter from the perspective of The Hague as ‘Legal Capital of the World’. Since the 1950s, major environmental destruction has been caused by the interplay between demographics, economic activities and the development and application of technology – seriously threatening the conditions for life on earth. While activities such as wildlife poaching and trafficking have already been defined as an international crime, the overall juridical coverage is lacking and law enforcement – where applicable – is usually rather weak.

The overall aim of the workshop was precisely to pose the question of how legal institutions in The Hague – particularly the various courts – then include ecocide as part of their mandate, making ecocide an international crime.

Key issues discussed included:

  • Transnational wildlife crime    
  • Smuggling of ozone-depleting substances
  • Land degradation (case-study Marsh Arabs in Iraq)
  • Illegal deforestation
  • Climate change as state-corporate crime

Specific objectives included:

  • To obtain greater knowledge about ecocide by presenting and discussing several definitions and forms.
  • To reflect on the possibilities regarding a formal and grand scale conference on ecocide, in The Hague.
  • To reflect on the relation between ecocide and the Statute of the International Criminal Court.
  • To discuss next steps in order to enhance the role of The Hague as ‘Legal Capital of the World’ in combatting ecocide.

Workshop Materials


Opening and Introduction 

Cases of Ecocide