Back to Events

PoC Week Event: Protecting the environment is protecting civilians

On May 26, the Governments of Belgium, Costa Rica, Niger, Switzerland and Viet Nam, in partnership with the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, Environmental Peacebuilding Association (EnPAx), and PAX, convened a virtual side-event to the annual UNSC debate on the Protection of Civilians examining the detrimental impacts of conflict-related environmental damage on civilians, and exploring the linkages between protecting the environment and protecting civilians in armed conflict.

In 2021, civilians living in conflict-zones have continued to see the detrimental impacts of conflict-related environmental damage and an increased vulnerability to climate and environmental health risks as violence wreaks havoc on governance and mitigation infrastructure. Direct and indirect impacts of military activities on critical environmental infrastructure have had deadly and potentially long-term effects on civilian lives and livelihoods, including contributing to food and water insecurity; exposure to toxic hazards from damaged industrial sites and/or remnants of war; and the destruction of necessary public health infrastructure; among others. Resulting breakdowns in civilian access to safe water supply, waste disposal, and pollution control services have further limited capacities to protect human health and stem the spread of communicable diseases like COVID-19 in conflict-affected communities. Furthermore, as fighting has increasingly taken place in urban areas in recent years, the risk and magnitude of civilian exposure to environmental harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has also increased.

Growing empirical evidence linking armed conflict, environmental degradation, and climate concerns has driven the discourse forward within the UN system in recent years. For example, in his last three reports to the Security Council on the Protection of Civilians, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres underscored the direct environmental impacts of conflict on human health and suffering, and Member States have continued to drive the conversation forward in the UN Security Council, General Assembly, Environment Assembly, and beyond. Building on this momentum, there are unique opportunities to improve recognition, monitoring, and assessment of these risks in order to find solutions to improve responses that prevent environmental degradation and resulting threats to civilians in armed conflict.

By bringing together experts from a range of environmental, humanitarian, and protection fields, the event seeks to identify and promote coordinated recommendations for the prevention, mitigation, and remediation of conflict-related environmental damage as a means of improving civilian protection. Projected speakers cover environmental dimensions of humanitarian response in armed conflicts, explore policies to prevent and limit environmental damage from military operations, and illustrate various cases from ongoing conflicts.

1:00 pm –1:15 pm | Opening remarks:
• H.E.Mr. Dinh Quy Dang, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Socialist Republic of Viet Namto the United Nations
• H.E.Mr. Abdou Abarry, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Nigerto the United Nations

1:15 pm –1:55pm | Moderated panel discussion, featuring:
•Ms. JohanaBretou-Klein, Researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science
•Mr. Chris Harland,Deputy Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross Delegationin New York
•Mr. Dominick de Waal,Senior Economistat the World Bank
•Mr. Wim Zwijnenburg,Conflict and EnvironmentProject Leader at PAX

1:55pm –2:25 pm | Q&A Session moderated by:
•Dr. Erika Weinthal,Vice President of the Environmental Peacebuilding Association, Professor of Environmental and Public Policy at Duke University

2:25pm –2:30pm | Closing remarks:
•H.E.Mr. Philippe Kridelka, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations

  • Download the full concept note for this event here

Event Summary report

PoC Week Event: Protecting the environment is protecting civilians

Latest publications about this event

All media types
  • All media types
  • News
  • Podcasts
  • Reports
  • Videos
  • Events
  • Infographics
Protection of Civilians Week 2021
PoC Week side event: Protecting the environment is protecting civilians
PoC Week side event: Emerging practices in effective Civilian Harm Mitigation

Other events

Back to Events

June 1, 2020
PoC week event: Training for the protection of civilians
October 28, 2020
Improving gender-sensitive capacities for PoC in UN peacekeeping training
November 2, 2020
Engaging Local Populations as Partners in UN Peacekeeping