Briefing Note: Conflict-Related Environmental Damage in Ukraine
Armed conflicts continue to have devastating direct and reverberating effects, with destructive impacts on ecosystems and civilian lives and livelihoods. Since February 2022, Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine has raised serious concerns about damage to the environment, with both immediate and long-term consequences to civilians and the ecosystems they depend on.
The increasing risks posed by military actions to civilians and their environment demonstrate the need for a more coherent, coordinated UN-system-wide approach through the establishment of an Environment, Peace and Security (EPS) agenda to improve international prevention, mitigation, and response efforts to environmental damage in conflicts, such as in Ukraine and beyond. Such an EPS agenda must prioritize: (1) preventing and minimizing the environmental and derived humanitarian consequences of conflicts; (2) identifying, monitoring and responding to environmental consequences; and (3) the inclusion of the environment as an essential component of sustainable peacebuilding programs. An EPS agenda would also complement and strengthen existing normative agendas discussed at the UN Security Council (UNSC), such as the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, Sustaining Peace, and Women, Peace and Security agendas, among others. The UNSC has increasingly recognized the important links between the environment-climate-conflict nexus in the last decade, including in an increasing number of Council briefings and open debates, as well as through inclusion in a growing number of UN field mission mandates.
The UNSC should also strategically integrate and account for conflict-related environmental degradation in its briefings and consultations concerning the situation in Ukraine, exploring linkages between the environment and international peace and security, as well as more holistic approaches to protecting civilians in conflict and upholding international humanitarian and human rights law. A system-wide EPS agenda could be utilized as a foundation from which the international community could formulate a coherent and actionable response to conflict-related environmental degradation in Ukraine, coordinating with various UN agencies currently working on environmental issues within their own respective mandates.
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Date of publication:
Nov 07, 2022