Tuesday, October 18, 2011

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

On November 7, 2011, T.M.C. Asser Instituut will host a conference on "Protection of the Environment in Armed Conflict: Testing the Adequacy of International Law." The preliminary program is here. Here's the idea:

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.

The conference will:

  • assess the impact that modern warfare (weapons as well as strategies) has on the environment;
  • critically examine the existing regime for the protection of the environment under international humanitarian law with a view to establishing whether these protections are adequate or are in need of review or supplementation in the form of a dedicated protocol or independent covenant;
  • examine whether other related legal disciplines such as human rights, refugee or environmental law bear the possibility of contributing to the improvement of existing law and
  • develop and improve an understanding of the role of international organizations and civil society in addressing environmental consequences of war.