Workshop: Armed Conflicts and the Environment – International Law and Humanitarian Response

Throughout the history of efforts to regulate warfare, the focus has been on humanitarian protection. The extensive body of international humanitarian law is not primarily concerned with the environment, and the rules providing direct protection to the environment are few and substantially limited. The legal developments with regard to conflict-related environmental harm and its prevention and remediation have largely followed their own logic with little connection to the parallel spectacular growth of international environmental law.

The understanding of the environmental impact of armed conflicts has developed considerably in recent decades, in particular as a result of post-conflict environmental assessments conducted by the UNEP and others with this regard. Most importantly, the International Law Commission adopted in 2022 “Draft principles on Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflicts”. Humanitarian response strategic documents also state that “integrating environmental and climate considerations into humanitarian action leads to a faster, risk-informed crisis response, and contribute to shifting from short-term stability to long-term resilience” (Leadership in Humanitarian Action: Handbook for the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator. OCHA, 2019).

However according to the same strategic document there are only “three main bodies of international law that guide humanitarian action during the armed conflict: international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international refugee law, as reflected in treaty and customary law”. What about international environmental law with this regard? International environmental law should utterly guide humanitarian action during the armed conflict as the fourth main body of international law. To extend environmental part of humanitarian response it is necessary to accurately define its place in humanitarian programme cycle.

The objective of the workshop is to facilitate a discussion among UN agencies and academia on current practices in humanitarian response and identify ways to effectively incorporate anticipated environmental impacts into international program planning. The aim is to develop recommendations that promote sustainable humanitarian response strategy, with a focus on avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating any long-term negative impacts to the environment.


  • Anne van Aaken, Institute for Law and Economics, Universität Hamburg
  • Anne Dienelt, Universität Hamburg
  • Tanja Grygaski, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
  • Charles Kelly, School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC
  • Isabell Kempf, United Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
  • Elena Pribytkova, Southampton Law School
  • Elvira Pushkareva, Hamburg Institute for Advanced Study (HIAS)
  • Atila Uras, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • Emilia Wahlstrom, Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit
  • Yunae Yi, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)


9.30 Welcome Coffee

10.00 Welcome
Elvira Pushkareva (Hamburg Institute for Advanced Study) and Anne van Aaken (Institute for Law and Economics, Universität Hamburg)

10.15 Panel on International Law on Armed Conflicts and the Environment

Anne Dienelt (Universität Hamburg)
Environmental Protection in Armed Conflicts – A Fragmented Legal Framework

Isabell Kempf (United Nations Research Institute for Social Development)
Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Peace in Borderlands: Security, Environment and Development in the Great Lakes Region

Elena Pribytkova (Southampton Law School)
For Whom the Bell Tolls? Global Obligations in War

Moderation: Elvira Pushkareva

11.30 Coffee break

11.45 Panel on UN Regulations on Environmental Protection During Conflicts

Emilia Wahlstrom (Joint Environmental Unit UNEP/OCHA)
Environmental Protection During the Armed Conflict: JEU

Yunae Yi (UNEP)
Environmental Safeguarding and Protection in International Responses to Humanitarian Crises

Charles Kelly (School of International Service, American University)
Applying International Law on Environment During Conflicts: Challenges in the Humanitarian Sector

Moderation: Elena Pribytkova

13.00 Lunch

14.00 Panel on Environmental Part of Humanitarian Response

Atila Uras (UNEP)
Environmental Part of Humanitarian Response: UNEP Practice

Tanja Grygaski (OCHA)
Environment and the Humanitarian Response in Ukraine

Elvira Pushkareva (Hamburg Institute for Advanced Study)
Environmental Part of Humanitarian Response: Towards Sustainable Humanitarian Response Strategy

Moderation:  Anne Dienelt

15.15 Open Discussion: How to extend the integration of environmental considerations in humanitarian programming and planning?

16.30 Reception and the Exhibition Opening “Painting International Law” by Elvira Pushkareva

This workshop is for invited experts only.