Protection of the Environment in Armed Conflict: Testing the Adequacy of International Law

The Hague, 7 October 2011

On 7 November 2011, IES Chairman / President, Wouter Veening will speak on the role of international and civil organisations in addressing the environmental consequences of war at a conference on Protection of the Environment during Armed Conflict in The Hague.

The event is being co-organised by the T.M.C. Asser Institute on the day after the official United Nations ?International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict?.

The protection of the environment during armed conflict has long been neglected and is still underdeveloped. Armed conflict may have severe consequences for the natural environment, with the potential to leave it degraded or even destroyed. Military necessity and the achievement of military goals are generally seen as trumping the need to protect the environment. Most conflicts today are non-international in character, civil wars rather than conflicts between two or more States. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, 40% of all these intrastate conflicts since 1960 have a link to natural resources and these conflicts are twice as likely to relapse into conflict within five years. The damage to the environment caused during these conflicts is not only of itself deplorable, but may increase the vulnerability of affected populations as well, lead to displacement or increasing numbers of refugees fleeing to other countries.

In the light of this background, the conference intends to examine the extent to which the environment could be protected during armed conflict today by analysing the existing legal framework of international humanitarian and international environmental law. Beyond these two disciplines, the conference aims to reach out to experts in other related disciplines, such as political science and environmental studies, and within the legal discipline, besides international humanitarian law and international environmental law, human rights and refugee law, given that aspects of both sets of legal rules become increasingly influential on the protection afforded to the environment to the armed conflict, but also seeing that the destruction of the environment in these situations bears increasing risks and results in greater difficulties for the protection of refugees, internally displaced persons and the wider population in general.