Write On! GoJIL Special Issues on Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict – Beyond the ILC

A reminder from GoJIL: Call for Submissions for Special Issue on “Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict – Beyond the ILC”.

The International Law Commission included the topic “Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict” in 2011 on its future program of work. It is now in the stage of finalizing the project by drafting principles that address the phases of pre-conflict, during conflict, and post-conflict in light of different fields of international law, in particular laws of armed conflict, human rights law and international environmental law. This GoJIL special issue attempts to consolidate the legal protection of the environment during the three phases of armed conflict by the laws of armed conflict, human rights law and international environmental law. Contributions should address one (or several) of the three conflict phases with regard to environmental protection.

Deadline for the submission of abstracts is 1 June 2019. All articles must be submitted 1 August 2019. Selected contributions will then be published in Issue 1 of Vol. 10 in 2020. The full GoJIL call for papers can be found here.

Call for Papers: ‘Protection of the Environment in relation to Armed Conflict- Beyond the ILC’

The Goettingen Journal of International Law (GoJIL) has published a call for papers for a Special Issue on ‘Protection of the Environment in relation to Armed Conflict – Beyond the ILC’. The GoJIL, a student-run law journal, is based on a double-blind peer review process and is available open access.

The objective of the special issue is to review the work of the International Law Commission (ILC) on the topic up until now but also looking beyond the Commission’s work to search for legal avenues on how to consolidate the protection of the environment. The ILC included the topic ‘Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict’ in 2011 on its future program of work. The Commission is now in the stage of finalizing the project by drafting principles that address environmental protection from a temporal approach, i.e. the phases of pre-conflict, during conflict, and post-conflict in light of different fields of international law. The ILC has been focusing on, inter alia the laws of armed conflict, human rights law and international environmental law.

The special issue includes papers discussed during a workshop co-organised by the Law Faculty of Lund University and the Law Faculty of University of Hamburg in March 2019, but is also open for other submissions. Contributions should address one (or several) of the three conflict phases with regard to environmental protection. Submissions can also zoom out of the three phases and look at different actors and affected groups, for instance, and how they are impacted by the environment and armed conflicts. Contributions are not limited to legal views but can include other perspectives on the topic as well.

The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 1 June 2019 and the final paper needs to be submitted no later than 1 August 2019. The special issue is scheduled to be published early 2020. For more information on how to submit a paper, please consult the call (below).

CfP Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict – Beyond the ILC

Go On! Workshop on “Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict – Beyond the ILC”

Call for Engaged Listeners to attend an international workshop on “Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict – Beyond the ILC” in Hamburg, 7 – 8 March 2019.

The workshop is organized by the Institute for International Affairs of the University of Hamburg School of Law and Faculty of Law of Lund University in cooperation with the Environmental Peacebuilding Association’s Law Interest Group.

The purpose of this workshop is to review the work of the International Law Commission on the topic of Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflicts on its future program of work and assess and address issues that have not been dealt with yet. The International Law Commission has so far adopted 18 draft principles which address questions of environmental protection in the three phases of armed conflict: before, during and after.

The workshop will be attended by the current Special Rapporteur of the topic Marja Lehto as well as the former Special Rapporteur Marie Jacobsson and other members of the commission and international experts.

The workshop is open to a limited number of engaged listeners – apart from the speakers. If you are interested in participating in the audience (not as a speaker) and thus contribute to our discussion, please send an application with a short motivation letter explaining your interest in the conference (maximum 400 words) along with a short bio (150 words) to Anne Dienelt (anne.dienelt@uni-hamburg.de). The deadline for applications is 30 January 2019. Successful applicants will be notified in the beginning of February 2019. Participation is free of charge, but at your own expense. You can find the workshop draft program and more information below.


Write On! Conference on the 26th and 27th of April 2018, Lund University: ‘The Nature of Peace’: exploring links between the natural environment and peace-building in post-conflict societies

Why the Nature of Peace?

This conference is organized by the interdisciplinary research group ‘The Nature of Peace’ at the Pufendorf Institute of Advance Studies at Lund University, Sweden. Empirical evidence from around the world has shown that post-conflict reconstruction efforts often focus on the short-term and urgent needs of societies transitioning to peace. These processes, however, often fail to consider the root causes of the conflict (such as control over key natural resources) or to integrate post-conflict dynamics such as those linked to the distribution of environmental “goods” (water, land, forest, etc.) and “bads” (pollution, contamination, enclosures, etc.), the participation and restriction in environmental politics by diverse ethnic/social/gender/age groups, or the recognition and denial of diverse value systems with different understandings of nature and human.

In order to present its research results, the research group is organizing a two-days final conference to take place in Lund on the 26th and 27th of April 2018. We intend that the conference serves as well as a platform to engage with different people working with related issues. Therefore, we would like to invite other scholars and practitioners to participate or present their work.

 Final conference

The conference is structured in a series of seminars and a panel. We expect to have few papers in each seminar to allow for in-depth discussion and engagement. We intent that the seminars would give presenters the space to share ideas or hypotheses, elaborate on them and debate about the role of nature in post-conflict societies from diverse perspectives. Presenters will be able to choose the best way to communicate their ideas and engage the audience in discussions using different methods (e.g. from a classical power point presentation to a more interactive one such as using on-line tools). In the panel, participants will have the opportunity to share their views from the ground.

The conference is structured in six seminars and a panel:

  1. Natural resources exploitation
  2. Environmental legislation / nature governance
  3. Biodiversity conservation
  4. Monitoring environmental transformation (tools and mechanisms)
  5. Nature, culture and rights
  6. Intersectionality, post-conflict and natural environment
  7. Panel: Local perspectives

In Seminar 1Natural resource exploitation” we welcome papers that address the relevance of focusing in natural resource exploitation in different scales. Natural resources (land included) are target of international investors and corporations and national states take advantage of them to promote economic development and foster state reconstruction. However, natural resources are key for local livelihoods and income generation. Disputes over the access and use of natural resources (such as diamonds or forests) can create new conflicts or bring back old ones, attempting against stability and peace in the long run.

In Seminar 2Environmental legislation / nature governance” we invite papers that address, for instance, the following questions: Which major governance processes relating to the natural environment (agenda-setting, rule- and decision-making, implementation, enforcement, evaluation) have taken place in post-conflict situations, which ones are missing? What are the major outputs (laws, strategies, guidelines, incentive mechanisms, etc.) and how effective are they? Which actors have been involved in these processes or benefited from them (international or domestic actors; governmental, civil society, private sector, military, scientists, vulnerable groups, other stakeholders), which ones have been absent or marginalized? At which levels have these processes predominantly taken place (national, regional, local)? What is the degree of legitimacy and accountability of post-conflict environmental governance and legislation? And how can we explain or understand the observed types of governance, inclusiveness, effectiveness or legitimacy in a theory-guided manner, e.g. through constellations of power and interests, knowledge claims and gaps, or the contestation of norms and discourses?

In Seminar 3Biodiversity conservation” we invite papers that inquire to what extent peacebuilding can potentially bridge developmental objectives with biodiversity conservation. A transition towards post-conflict opens an opportunity to retake control over protected areas, forest ecosystems and biodiversity. Yet, biodiversity conservation is not very high on the peacebuilding agenda and with political stability and security comes development of infrastructure and certain economic sectors that further drive the loss of biodiversity. New roads provide easier access to remote areas and lead to an increase in hunting, degradation of ecosystems and the loss of habitat, affecting biodiversity negatively. Counteracting this negative trend with serious long-term implications for the health of people and ecosystems is fundamental and post-conflict transitions provide a window of opportunity towards a more sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity.

In Seminar 4Monitoring environmental transformation” we seek to discuss the possibilities to use Earth observations from satellite to monitor natural environments and resources in post-conflict situations. Time series of satellite images analyzed in a geographic information system (GIS) are objective means to access status and changes in environmental parameters e.g. spatial distribution and area of different land use, land use changes, biological production, and natural forest area issues. Earth observation methods, together with contextual information and data collected with other methods, might be able to tell us something about how socio-economic and political changes lead to inequalities among different groups and across socially constructed boundaries, particularly in peacebuilding. This seminar also intends to include debates regarding what we can and cannot say about nature in post-conflict situations using satellite images.

In Seminar 5Nature, culture and rights”, we invite presentations focusing on how cultural beliefs and practices, especially the relationship between human beings and the non-human world, can be of relevance for post-conflict peace-building. Culture can be defined as a body of beliefs and practices in terms of which a group of people understand themselves and the world and organize their individual and collective lives. These beliefs, practices and value systems might be shaped by religion, but also by Enlightenment ideas about rationality, secularism and progress, and be a reflection of power dynamics within or between societies. Both theoretical discussions from fields such as philosophy, religious studies and human rights studies, as well as case studies from local contexts, are invited.

In Seminar 6Intersectionality, post-conflict and natural environment” we particularly welcome papers interested in addressing gender aspects that relate to nature in post-conflict and peacebuilding. However, we have a broad understanding of intersectionality, referring to overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination, oppression, and disadvantage according to social categorizations not only gender but also ethnicity, social class, age, sexuality, etc.

The panel “Local perspectives” invites practitioners (including activists, politicians, lawyers, NGO staff working on the ground) working with local communities from different continents in post-conflict situation and/or peace-building to present their views from the ground. With this panel we want to show regional differences in relation to how the natural environment and peacebuilding are interconnected (or not).

Participation and contact

Papers interested in discussing the role of nature in post-conflict societies and/or during peacebuilding are welcome!

If you would like to participate, please send an email to Andrea Nardi (andrea.nardi@keg.lu.se) or Lina Eklund (lina.eklund@cme.lu.se). If you are interested in presenting a paper, please submit an abstract and the name of the seminar you would like to do so. You find the conference call here.

Submissions should consist of a text with no more than 500 words and a brief CV containing the author’s name, institutional affiliation and contact information. We should receive the abstract no later than 15 February 2018. All participants will be notified of the final selection by 28 February 2018.

About The Nature of Peace research group

The research group scrutinizes the role of the natural environment in post-conflict societies, posing questions such as: What role does nature have in peace building? How is the natural environment considered in fragile states that need to develop quickly, during reconstruction period? Does peace always bring sustainable development? How can peace-building activities contribute to sustainable development?

The research group brings together researchers from five different faculties (Social Sciences, Law, Humanities and Theology, Natural Sciences, and University Specialised Centres) to discuss and work on these issues.

Invitation: Environmental Peacebuilding Lecture with Ambassador Marie Jacobsson

At the event, to be held on 3 November in Washington, Ambassador Marie Jacobsson will receive the prominent Al-Moumin Award for her exceptional contributions to environmental peacebuilding.

Ambassador Jacobsson is a member of the United Nations International Law Commission and she was the instigator for including the topic Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict onto the Commission’s work agenda. The Al-Moumin Award and Distinguished Lecture of Environmental Peacebuilding acknowledges leading thinkers who are influential within the field of environmental peacebuilding. The Award is named in honor of Dr. Mishkat Al-Moumin. She was Iraq’s first Minister of Environment, and also a human rights and environmental lawyer.

Environmental peacebuilding integrates the management of the environment and natural resources into peacebuilding activities to achieve security, humanitarian, and development objectives. Modern armed conflicts often take place in fragile developing states where the environment and its assets are at heart of conflicts. Fighting takes place to gain control over land and natural resources. Income generated from the exploitation of natural resources finance war activities, and the environment is in many cases targeted in the military operations. A damaged and unmanaged environment prevents sustainable peace. For instance, states with resource-related conflicts are more likely to relapse. Thus, environmental peacebuilding is critical in the peacebuilding activities. Furthermore, farmland, forests, minerals, water, and other resources are fundamental for rebuilding livelihoods and domestic economies. In short, a healthy environment is a precondition for building a sustainable peace.

Ambassador Marie Jacobsson has been a member of the International Law Commission since 2007 and was appointed Special Rapporteur for the topic Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict in 2013. In her work she has sought to expand the legal framework protecting the environment in relation to armed conflicts by adopting a temporal approach focusing on the environmental protection prior, during and after an armed conflict. The approach reflects that actions prior as well as during an armed conflicts have implications on the outlooks for peace. Therefore, to ensure a legal protection for the environment in all three phases is crucial for environmental peacebuilding.

The event is free although pre-registration is necessary. For more information, see the event’s homepage.

First Steps Towards a Clarified and Enhanced Environmental Protection in Relation to Armed Conflict under International Law?

In 2013, the UN International Law Commission included the topic “Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict” into its programme of work (see my previous post). The inclusion of the topic brings hope for a desired development, as the environmental protection provided under the law of armed conflict has been widely criticized by the legal scholarly community as being vague and inadequate. The Special Rapporteur, Ms. Marie G. Jacobsson has proposed to clarify the applicability of and the relationship between the law of armed conflict and other areas of law including international criminal law, international environmental law and human rights law, albeit she has affirmed that the law of armed conflict applies as lex specialis during armed conflict. The core problem is that environmental damage is complex and may have long-term, severe and even irreversible implications that may not be foreseeable or even be visible at first, which is not an aspect considered under the law of armed conflict. At the same time, international environmental law has developed as a response to tackle complex global environmental problems. Thus, looking at other areas of law, especially international environmental law will be a welcomed contribution to wartime environmental protection.

The law of armed conflict permits far-reaching environmental damage in favour of military operations. In international armed conflicts, the environment receives an absolute protection in case where an attack is expected to cause “widespread, severe and long-term” environmental damage in accordance with Articles 35(3) and 55(1) in the Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. The environment also receives protection as a far as it can be considered as a civilian object. However, collateral damage to the environment is still permitted. As long as the anticipated military advantage of an attack outweighs the collateral environmental damage, such damage is lawful according to the IHL principle of proportionality. Military advantage might legitimately outweigh large-scale serious collateral damage to the environment. There is no clear assertion as to what degree of environmental damage that can be tolerated and how it should be evaluated in relation to the anticipated military advantage. Furthermore, the proportionality principle operates on the basis of foreseeable and expected harm. Only known risks would be relevant for assessing the legality of a decision to launch an attack. Environmental damage is often uncertain and unforeseeable, and the exact effect is almost impossible to establish and isolate. Even though the obligations under the law of armed conflict do recognize the environment’s need for particular protection, there is much room for discretion to the law-applier to neglect environmental concerns in favour of military operations due to vague formulations in the rules protecting the environment. Because of the complexity of environmental damage, international environmental law has taken preventative and also precautionary measures as a way to manage the uncertainty of such damage. It advances new legal requirements and enables innovative strategies that take into account the particularities of an environmental damage for the purpose of protecting it on a long-term basis.

At this year’s ILC session, the Special Rapporteur presented her second report, in which she proposed a set of Draft Principles applicable primarily during armed conflict. The Drafting Committee discussed and revised the proposals and presented a set of provisionally adopted Draft Principles to the Commission as a whole. The Draft principles will be accompanied with commentaries to be included in next year’s ILC Report.

The Drafting Committee´s report consists of an introductory part and six Draft Principles. The Draft Principles follow a temporal outline that divides them into principles applying prior, during and after an armed conflict. This means that the obligations focus on preventative measures prior to the outbreak of an armed conflict, measures to minimizing damage during the hostilities, and restorative measures to be undertaken in a post-conflict context. The adopted Draft Principles of this year’s session (and also the first set of adopted Draft Principles on this topic) mainly relate to the ‘during armed conflict’-part and mirror customary law obligations under the law of armed conflict. As this is a work in progress, further Draft Principles will be adopted. It will be interesting to see whether the deficiencies in wartime environmental protection can be remedied by the Commission’s work, possibly by joining obligations of international environmental law with those of the law of armed conflict. This task relates to the topic of the Effects of Armed Conflict on Treaties, in regard to which the Commission assumed environmental treaties continue to apply in times of armed conflict. Hopefully, the Commission will be able to offer some further guidance on how they can be applied together with the obligations under the law of armed conflict. By doing so, the protection of the environment during and after armed conflict would better reflect a contemporary understanding of the environment as provided under existing international law.

The Draft Principles adopted at this year’s session already indicate some advancement towards enhanced environmental protection in relation to armed conflict under international law. To address both international armed conflict and non-international armed conflict brings the obligations under the two categories of armed conflict closer. This suggestion by the Special Rapporteur follows the progressive approach adopted by the International Red Cross Committee in its 2005 Customary Law Study on the law of armed conflict. Furthermore, Draft Principle II-3 obligates parties to an armed conflict to take environmental considerations into account with a proportionality assessment and as well as when applying the rules on military necessity. This reference makes the environment an explicit concern in targeting decisions. However, it is not entirely clear what the practical impacts such considerations would have on the battlefield. Does it mean that environmental considerations would include also environmental consequences that are of uncertain character to be taken into account when referring to what is proportionate and necessary? Could environmental considerations also refer to unforeseeable long-term environmental impacts in a proportionality assessment?

Lastly, the Draft Principle II-5 providing for designation of protected areas of major ecological and cultural importance is an interesting development. To designate protected areas is a conservation tool used under several international environmental treaties such as the World Heritage Convention, the Ramsar Convention for Wetland of International Importance, and the Biological Diversity Convention. By including this obligation seems to be an attempt to cross-fertilize tools of international environmental treaties into the law of armed conflict to protect the environment in times of armed conflict. It will be interesting to see the types of progressive normative steps the Commission will be willing to take in the up-coming years to address the issue of environmental protections in time of armed conflict.

New Topic and New Special Rapporteur in the ILC: A Sign of Progressiveness in the Man’s World of International Law?

marie jacobsson2(1)On May 29th, the International Law Commission (ILC) decided to include ‘protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts’ in its current programme of work, appointing Marie Jacobsson as the Special Rapporteur on that topic. In the past, the ILC has mainly addressed topics within the traditional international legal sphere, such as those concerning treaty interpretation and application. This work still constitutes an important part of the Commission’s programme, which covers issues such as subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties, the Most-Favoured-Nation clause, and provisional application of treaties.

The Commission, however, has made attempts to reform.  In its 1997 Yearbook, the ILC expressed an ambition to consider topics “that reflect new developments in international law and pressing concerns of the international community as whole.”  These less traditional topics can be found in the current work programme: the obligation to extradite or prosecute (aut dedere aut judicare), protection of persons in the event of disasters, and immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction. The latest topic to be included in ILC’s work programme – ‘protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts’ – is yet another sign of the ILC’s commitment to explore novel international law issues.

Concerns of the international community have changed over the years. The growing focus on the environment is but one example. Over the years, scholars have struggled to make sense of the fragmented and sometimes ambiguous international legal rules on the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict.  These rules often originate from different bodies of law, including international humanitarian law, international criminal law, international environmental law and human rights law. The ILC’s work will be valuable, then, simply in identifying the various legal issues around the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict. This is also an opportunity for the ILC to continue work on two previous topics considered in the Commission: fragmentation of international law and effects of armed conflicts on treaties.  The ILC has finalized its work on these topics, but further clarification is needed as many tricky questions remain. Hopefully, the Commission will be able to explore these questions in greater depth while at the same time addressing more novel concerns of the international community through its work on ‘the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts.

The ILC has for a long time been an exclusive men’s club. It was not until 2002 that the Commission received its first female members.  In that year, Paula Escarameia and Hanqin Xue, broke the record of exclusive male membership that had existed since 1949. By appointing Ms Jacobsson as the Special Rapporteur, the Commission is expanding the small group of female Special Rapporteurs. They are now two (!) in total with Concepción Escobar Hernández as the other female Special Rapporteur for immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction. Appointing a female Special Rapporteur to lead a dynamic and unconventional project at the ILC is a hopeful sign of new developments taking place in the man’s world of international law (see Naomi Burke’s recent blog post).