The Protection of the Environment in Peacekeeping Operations

By Benedetta Biagi

From "The CoESPU MAGAZINE - the online Journal of Stability Policing – Advanced Studies" Vol. I – Issue 1 – Year 2022

Page 55

DOI Code: 10.32048/Coespumagazine4.22.11


The right to have a clean and healthy environment belongs to the category of third-generation human rights, enshrined for the first time in the concluding Declaration adopted by the UN Conference on the Human Environment, held in June 1972 in Stockholm, and proclaimed by the International Court of Justice. The following paper aims to explain how this right has become embedded in international law, particularly within the peace operations organized by the United Nations and NATO. Indeed, the devastating effects of wars on the environment in which they take place have led to an increased focus on environmental protection by international organizations, even during the peculiar stage of peacekeeping missions. In fact, peacekeepers find themselves carrying out the missions in particularly environmentally sensitive places in the world, most often already the site of armed conflicts for several years and whose environment and ecosystem is extremely harmed. For this reason, there has been awareness about the importance of giving the peacekeepers very precise instructions not only in order to make their operation as environmentally less harmful as possible during the construction of camps and the conduct of missions but also in order to remedy the environmental damage suffered by the conflict-affected territory. In this regard, it is intended to highlight how both the international organizations, although with different instruments, actually use a common twofold approach in arranging instruments for environmental protection whenever a peacekeeping mission is organized and prepared. A first approach is carried out through the implementation of direct mandates to peacekeepers to ensure respect for the environment during military activities and the development of guidelines from which best practices can be learned; the second approach, on the other hand, takes the form more indirectly of a preventive perspective, through the provision of funds, the organization of specific training courses for military personnel and the writing of reports in which environmental damage is noted. To highlight this dual approach, the two organizations have been analyzed separately, starting with the United Nations and following with NATO. For each organization, a brief introduction was provided regarding their general position on environmental protection and its place in their founding charter. After that, the two aforementioned approaches are described individually, starting with the more direct one that examines the nature of mandates with specific environmental protection provisions or guidelines adopted and then analyzing the more indirect one, constituted by the trust funds and programs developed by the two organizations. In conclusion, the example of ENVSEC is revealed as a result of the United Nations and NATO working together for the first time on environmental protection. Such collaboration certainly bodes well for the future as the exchange of information regarding the techniques and tools adopted can only be a benefit to all. 

At the end of this study, it is possible to realize how the techniques used by each organization are actually the same: the tools, the documents produced, and the purposes are common to both and what differs is simply their names and sometimes the way in which they are implemented. This aspect amplifies the need for collaboration at the international level to cope with the various problems of implementation of the tools used, given, for example, the lack of monitoring mechanisms, uncertainty about the duration of missions, even more so after the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has in fact destabilized the organization of many peacekeeping missions and projects aimed at environmental protection.



Respect for human rights is a principle that is independent of acts of law but inherent in the fact that we are individuals, human, and, as such, entitled to their respect. 1 The most established way of classifying these rights is into 'first, second and third generation' rights, respectively Civil and political rights, Social, economic and cultural rights and in the end Solidarity rights and among this last category we find the right to a clean and healthy environment.2 As stated by the International Court of Justice (1996) <<[T]he environment is not an abstraction but represents the living space, the quality of life and the very health of human beings, including generations unborn.>> It has been fully acknowledged beyond doubt that our environment is in dire need of being protected as it is ruled and standardized both at national and international levels.

Nevertheless, the concern has increased regarding the deteriorating effects of the armed conflicts on the environment, which is described in the academic debate by Bartolini and Pertile (2016) as <<the silent victim of warfare>>. It even happened during armed conflicts that ecosystems have been deliberately targeted to achieve political and military goals; however, the majority of the environmental damage is collateral or related to the preparation and execution phases of wars and to the managing strategies of local populations.3

Since environmental protection is a recently developed right, it has not been easy to frame it in the international debate and in relation to armed conflicts: environmental deterioration can be caused in most cases by an armed conflict but also by peacekeeping missions that involuntarily have to operate in countries already damaged by years of tensions. The need to protect the ecosystem is not only a moral duty towards the planet, but it is of vital importance to avoid the creation of further conflicts in relation to natural resources that may be lacking as a result of the conflict and to avoid environmental exploitation, which therefore may hinder the peace of the country and its return to normal life. In fact, after the deployment of military and civilian personnel and major logistics operations, peace operations have historically left an undesired environmental legacy in fragile and resource-scarce areas (Waleij, 2020). In their study, Bruch et al. (2016) sustain how peacekeeping operations happen in countries where degradation and contamination of natural resources exacerbate poverty and food insecurity, where natural resources are the target of armed violence, and it happened in the past that the impact of the troops’ activities would worsen the environmental situation, also unintendedly. In Darfur, for example, the UN humanitarian and peacekeeping community decided to purchase bricks made locally to stimulate the local economy, but because trees were used as fuel to fire the bricks, it caused an increase of deforestation in that area.

To limit the impact of armed conflicts on the environment, there have been attempts to elaborate specific international agreements regarding the conduct of hostilities, which led to the enactment of the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (‘ENMOD Convention’) adopted in 1976 by the UN General Assembly. More general rules concerning this matter are also enshrined in Geneva Conventions Additional Protocol I 1977, articles 35 (3) and 55 (1). Even the International Law Commission at its sixty-fifth session in 2013, decided to include the topic Protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts in its program of work, dedicating, in particular, a section related to the protection of the environment after the conflict, from Principle 23 to Principle 28. 

Being aware of the environmental damage caused by military activities, both the United Nations and the NATO Alliance started developing environmental policies and guidelines in order to provide environmental protection during post-conflict scenarios. In particular, their commitment in this regard is shown in two different ways: through the implementation of direct mandates to the peacekeepers to ensure their respect for the environment during the military activities and the development of guidelines from which they can learn the best practice; but also more indirectly in a preventive perspective, by arranging funds for the protection of the environment, settling specific pieces of training for the staff and the military personnel and through the drafting of reports in which environmental damage is noted, since they have proven to be extremely effective in order to prevent the commission of the same mistakes. 




Even if in the United Nations Charter (1945) a specific referment to the environment does not appear, by reading the first article in which it is stated that its purposes are to <<to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace>> and <<to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character>>, we can easily include the importance of the protection of the environment in these lines. In fact, environmental protection is a very recent issue addressed to the member states and all over the world, considering that the UN was founded in 1945, so a goal-oriented or a historical approach is needed to interpret the UN Charter. 

If we want to make a comparison, it is by following the same goal-oriented approach that the UN started creating peacekeeping operations based on impartiality, self-defense, and consent of the State in which they are deployed, using the Chapter VII of the Charter as the more adequate legal basis.

Therefore, despite their absence in the Charter, nowadays not only do these operations have a specific mandate by the UN to do what is necessary to prevent environmental damages during their activities, but also through the collaboration of the different UN Departments, every year new guidelines, strategies and measures are adopted to prevent the environmental degradation caused by military activities. 


Starting from the direct approach, as explained by Shoshan (2016), UN peace operators often have to build military bases, headquarters, airfields, and camps in very fragile urban and rural environments with little infrastructure, which are constantly threatened by desertification, over-exploitation of natural resources, and climate variability. UN peacekeeping started concerning about the environmental impact of their missions only at the beginning of the 2000s with the deployment of several new-scale operations. This is the reason why it has developed an overarching policy to manage environmental issues with the UN Department of Operational Support (DOS). The aim pursued by the DOS is indeed to provide operational support to all UN Secretariat entities, including advisory, operational, and transactional support services in the environmental field, having recognized the potential damage that field operations can have on the environment, as well as on the local economy and on relations with host communities. 4 In collaboration with the Departments for Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support (DPKO/DFS), they adopted an Environmental Policy for UN Field Missions in 2009 and they created an Environment Section in 2016, which has designed an Environment Strategy. Maertens and Shoshan (2018) enlighten in their report that in September 2015 a dedicated Waste Management Policy for UN Field Missions was approved, which included doctrine, policies, procedures, and practices aimed to reduce the waste produced by the missions and then the proper dispose of such waste. 5

The most ambitious program has been set by the Department of Field Support (DFS) in collaboration with the DOS, with the establishment of the Environment Strategy, which came into effect in 2017. Through this program the Departments planned, by June of 2023, to realize the deployment of <<responsible missions that achieve maximum efficiency in their use of natural resources and operate at minimum risk to people, societies, and ecosystems; contributing to a positive impact on these wherever possible.>> 6 The Strategy is a living document which is constantly updated as progress evolve and in particular it points out a phase one in which the goals that they scheduled to achieve by June of 2020 are described across five pillars: energy, water and wastewater, solid waste, wider impact and the introduction of an environmental management system. 

This document underlines specific recommendations for the management of the peace operation. According to the study of Maertens and Shoshan (2018), first of all, it is required an increase in financial and human resources dedicated to the implementation of the Environment Strategy and to planning, like the commission of urban planners to analyze the local context and the Environmental Officers, who disseminate the important information and guidelines about the Environmental Policy and Strategy among the population, they conduct inspections, promote mainstreaming environmental policies into operations conducted by missions, advise other sections, and organize training and awareness-raising campaigns for field personnel. It is no less important the recommendation to use local capacities and materials where feasible, which, depending on the environmental and economic assessments of the possible long-term impact, can exponentially reduce the cost and environmental footprint of UN missions. Thanks to this initiative, since 2017 all the UN peacekeeping missions have used a standard template to develop their environmental action plan through data collection and budget planning. In June 2016, DFS established also a three-year technical assistance partnership with UNEP, the Rapid Environment and Climate Technical Assistance Facility (REACT), which recruited eight professionals in environmental engineering, so that they could provide technical assistance to headquarters and missions.7 The establishment of the Environment Strategy surely improved the work of a well-known UN peacekeeping operation. Indeed, back in 2013, the UN Security Council for the first time gave a peacekeeping operation in Mali a direct mandate to address the environmental consequences of its activities: the United Nations (UN) Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was launched on July 1st, 2013 following the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2100 on April 25th. The reason why there has been a particular consideration for the environment in this regard is that most of MINUSMA’s activities take place in northern Mali, a zone characterized by low population density, chronic droughts, and lack of water. 8

In this matter, there has been substantial preparatory work to include environmental considerations in every aspect of the mission. The report (Maertens and Shoshan, 2018) explains the modalities for housing construction, the management and waste disposal, and the most considerable use possible of a resource as important as water. This was necessary because to support the deployment of the mission, many camps, operational headquarters, logistics hubs, and airports were built in numerous cities in Mali.

A very relevant part of MINUSMA’s environmental action plan has been the training for military, police, and civilian personnel. Indeed, until January 2015 the Environment and Culture Unit trained almost 550 personnel on environmental management in Bamako, Douentza, Gao, Kidal, Mopti, and Timbuktu and more than 40 environmental visits were conducted to different sites to observe the management of solid and dangerous waste, energy, water, wastewater, flora, and fauna. 9 The training of UN peacekeeping staff and troops has been suggested by the UNEP in its 2012 report, and they can be extremely useful for improving their practice during the missions. 



<<Protecting the environment before, during, and after armed conflict must rise to the same level of political importance as protecting human rights, because a healthy environment is a foundation upon which ​peace and many human rights are realized.>> This statement by David Jensen, UNEP's environmental peacebuilding officer, can be taken as a starting point to highlight how the United Nations started to do anything in their power not only to put a remedy to the environmental damages but also to prevent them. 

Indeed, the first and most important achievement has been the institution of UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It is the leading global environmental authority that has been working since 1972 against climate change, in favor of environmental protection and sustainable use of natural resources. Having an autonomous mandate to provide guidance to its member states on environmental issues and policy guidance for the direction and coordination of environmental programs within the UN system, the UNEP worked during these years through many levels and many initiatives. 

One of the most famous is for sure the Greening the Blue Initiative, which started on the 5th of June 2007, when the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon publicly called on all UN agencies, funds, and programs to become climate neutral and go green. 10 By doing so, it was established that UN entities should: measure their environmental performance, reduce their environmental impacts, and offset unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, to extend UNEP’s range of action and analytical capacity, an Expert Advisory Group on Environment, Conflict, and Peacebuilding was established in February 2008 and ended up in a report, From Conflict to Peacebuilding, The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment (UN environment program, 2009). In general, it speaks about the connections that exist between the environment, conflicts, and UN operations. It is emphasized how crucial is the adoption of an appropriate action plan for the management of natural resources. In fact, a failure to take steps to establish the use of resources and plan their division among the populations or countries in the conflict, can cause the conflict to rekindle. 

Another significant tool adopted by UNEP is the UN Environment's vision for Environmental Education & Training for Sustainable Development (EETSD). Experience has made us understand how the ways to protect the environment and to prevent the negative effects on it can vary greatly, depending on the population and the area in which you are located; therefore it is essential to adopt an education strategy to achieve an holistic approach in order to protect the environment, to make people understand that all humans are responsible for its preservation and that everyone can do something, even minimal initiatives, to achieve an improvement in the quality of their life. 11

Along the same line, from the UNEP’s report Greening the Blue Helmets, it emerges that the biggest and most organized UN peacekeeping missions provide proper training to the staff and the military personnel with the aim to raise awareness and identify the key environmental challenges faced by the mission in terms of waste management, water, and energy. 12 For example, they have been trained to identify some challenges such as wastewater treatment, solid waste, hazardous waste segregation and disposal, ground pollution from oil spills, renewable energy technologies, and emergency preparedness plans. However, at this moment there seems not to be a systematic and comprehensive pre-deployment training on natural resources and the environment for UN peacekeeping personnel, plus the fact that these pieces of training often lack appropriate environmental expertise, or enough dedicated time to perform these additional duties. 13

To avoid the degradation of the environment, direct activities in assisting the areas in need can be helpful, but Mason et al. (2008) describe in their study some recent avant-garde tools, the environmental Conflict Prevention Measures (CPMs), defined as measures that can help prevent conflict by specifically focusing on environmental factors. It is a logical consequence that, to avoid environmental damages, we need to avoid conflicts, or at least it is necessary to do what is possible to prevent them. Therefore, these measures, using the environment as a transversal topic, focus on the socio-economic and political use and management of the environment, rather than on purely technical or economic approaches. A perfect Conflict Prevention Measure needs to be concrete and applicable case by case, aiming at conflict prevention, as the name suggests, rather than post-conflict management and it addresses the underlying environmental trends potentially escalating a conflict, with the complex aspects of conflict dynamics. 

An example of an effective measure is the prospective impact assessment, used to make an evaluation of the risks and impacts prior to an important decision regarding a specific project, in order to minimize unwanted outcomes and thereby encourage the design of proper follow-ups, long-term sustainability, and structural reform. Examples of these assessments can include the EU Sustainability Impact Assessment and the Handbook for Sustainability Impact Assessment. Being these assessments at a national or regional level, often they cannot be used in different countries, so this is why the UN involvement has been fundamental with the establishment at the UNCED of the Agenda 21, which promotes a global action plan for sustainable development and requires that impact assessments be integrated into decision making processes. 



NATO defines the environment as <<the surroundings in which an organization operates, including air, water, land, natural resources, flora, fauna, humans, and their interrelations>>,14 but the concept of environmental protection does not appear in the North Atlantic Treaty, or in the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). However, the prevention principle was stated during the Rio Declaration in 1922 and then confirmed by the International Court of Justice in the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros case in 1997, according to which <<in the field of environmental protection, vigilance and prevention are required on account of the often irreversible character of damage to the environment and of the limitations inherent in the very mechanism of reparation of this type of damage>>, led to the acceptance of this principle as a norm of customary international law, influencing the approach of NATO’s environmental protection policies, doctrine, and standardization agreements (NATO Legal Gazette, 2019, p. 4). Even if the environmental protection was not addressed by NATO military forces since the beginning, it has now become an essential goal for the conduct of successful modern, comprehensive operations.

The main activities and commitments of NATO regarding the environment fall under two categories. The first one, called Environmental Protection, aims to protect the environment from the harmful impact of the military activities, providing specific teams and guidelines which the personnel needs to follow during the missions. The second one, named Environmental Security, addresses security challenges emanating from the environment, with a specific focus on the prevention of the degradation of the environment, thanks to funds and collaborative initiatives. 15


With the aim to reduce the environmental footprint of the operations and to respect the Environmental Protection (EP) standards, now all NATO missions include environmental considerations, having the NATO Military Principles and Policies for Environmental Protection as legal basis (2011). 

Also, since 1970s NATO is developing its environmental protection policy by proposing several guidelines and standards. 16 Most importantly, two main groups are working on specific aspects of the environmental protection and they strive to respect environmental principles and policies under all conditions:17 the Environmental Protection Working Group (EPWG), under the Military Committee Joint Standardization Board that reports to the Military Committee; and the Specialist Team on Energy Efficiency and Environmental Protection (STEEEP), under the Maritime Capability Group Ship Design and Maritime Mobility that reports through the NATO Naval Armaments Group to the Conference of National Armament Directors. 


The EPWG is composed of environmental policymakers, environmental experts, military engineers, and logisticians from NATO and interested Partner countries, whose goal is to reduce the deteriorating effects of the military operations on the environment by the developing guidelines, NATO policies, and best practices in the planning and implementation of operations and exercises. 18 The EPWG has the task to develop standardization proposals or prepare Standardization Agreements (STANAGs). Indeed, the EPWG began to work on the STANAG 7141, Joint NATO Doctrine For Environmental Protection During NATO-led Military Activities, with the aim to help standardize doctrine for EP by Allied forces (NATO Legal Gazette, 2019 p. 56). 

Then, according to the Legal Gazette one of the most significant EP policies was launched, the MC 469 – NATO Military Principles and Policies for Environmental Protection, approved in June 2003 by the Military Committee and updated in 2011. The objective of this document is to facilitate the integration of EP into all NATO-led military activities, consistent with operational imperatives. In doing so, this document highlights the responsibility that military commanders have for the protection of the environment while they plan the military activities and furthermore it instructs them on how to apply the preservation measures that are more practical and feasible to conserve the environment and to reduce the damages of the NATO missions; the MC provides principles and policies in support of all NATO-led military activities and it stresses out the importance of early consideration of environmental aspects in the planning process.19 Given the fact that its content is very generic the Legal Gazette (2019, p. 40) affirms that SHAPE, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, started the revision of this document in order to describe in detail the specific roles and responsibilities at all levels and to coordinate EP efforts across NATO organizations, NATO Members, and partners. 

More detailed documents have been developed by NATO, firstly the STANAG 7141 Joint NATO Doctrine for Environmental Protection during NATO-led Military Activities 20, (which the EPWG is responsible to write and update) a promulgation letter in which the participating Nations agreed to implement the Allied Joint Environmental Protection Publication 4 (AJEPP-4). The STANAG 7141 refers to the environmental evaluations that the troops need to plan during an operation, for example how to prevent health hazards to the personnel and the surrounding local population, or how to prevent damage to that environment. 21

An extremely helpful agreement has been the STANAG 2510 (Study Draft 4 15 Aug 2005), Joint NATO Waste Management Requirements During NATO Led Military Activities. This document was an important achievement in harmonizing waste management rules during military activities. In fact, the Legal Gazette (2019, p. 60) affirms that when the Operation Deny Flight over the Balkans was launched, it was recognized that the air forces of the nations all had different regulations regarding waste management, therefore discovering that a lot of waste ended up in unauthorized landfills, severely polluting the territory. 

The STEEEP is the custodian of all these publications. It aims to integrate environmental protection and energy efficiency regulations into technical requirements and specifications for armaments, equipment, and materials on ships, and for the ship-to-shore interface in the Allied and partner nations' naval forces.22

A very innovative means used by NATO that has shown its particular attention to environmental protection has been the high-visibility exercise Trident Juncture 2018 (TRJE18) in Norway, the country’s largest NATO exercise since the 1980s described by Paxton (2018). Consisting of a total number of 50000 participants, the exercise required adequate preparation to minimize the impact of the troops on the environment, but above all to try to prevent it. According to the AJEPP-7 Best environmental protection practices for sustainability of military training areas, <<every person in the military […] should know and obey applicable environmental laws and regulations, exercise caution, prepare for reasonably foreseeable risks and respond to risks and incidents as soon as practicable>>, a violation of these rules would not only taint NATO's reputation but could cause irreparable environmental damage (Legal Gazette, 2019, p. 152). During the TRJE18 specific Environmental Protection measures have been adopted and the EP Officers have been trained so that they could support the Commander and the unit in their planning process to avoid environmental damages with a view of prevention rather than cure. The greatest concerns of the Norwegian government were the risks of car accidents and the damages to cultivated grounds, which they tried to avoid by using outlying fields, in the inner nature. Unfortunately, this choice has not prevented the occurrence of damage to forests, and this is just one example that shows how difficult can be to make a correct assessment of the damages and how complicated it is to choose the lesser of the two evils when it comes to environmental damage in any case. Concerning is also the contamination of the waters that could poison fishes causing diseases, and the general well-being of the several nature reserves that inevitably suffer the footprint of the units. 

According to the NATO Legal Gazette (2019, p. 149) about 1069 cases of compensation have been asked to NATO due to the environmental damages, and although the harms cannot be undone, the acknowledgment and concern that all NATO states are giving to the environmental cause respects the organization's aims and gives hope for a more effective and decisive collaboration towards the environment.



Switching to the indirect approach, the NATO Alliance is addressing security challenges emanating from the environment, such as depletion of natural resources, pollution, and so on. To do so, the Alliance committed itself not only by addressing the environmental damages provoked by the military activities but also by evaluating the environmental risks to security in general. A proactive role is fundamental to help the territories victims of conflicts to clean up mines, stockpiles of weapons, and unexploded remnants of war, which can keep causing serious damage to the population in a long term period. 23 

That is why NATO is leading environmental initiatives through the Science for Peace and Security Programme, which promotes security-related practical cooperation and dialogue with scientists, experts, and officials from Allied and partner countries, based on scientific research, innovation, and knowledge. 24 Indeed, the shortage of natural resources, the contamination of waters caused by pollution, etc. results in serious environmental degradation which has the potential to significantly turn into violence and territorial tensions. 25 For this reason and also because nowadays the environmental security and human development are strongly linked to the issue of nutrition and health, the funds provided by the Programme and its initiatives regarding an optimal water resources management and the development of sustainable consumption, are fundamental to prevent conflicts and to keep a safe lifestyle. 26

The program works through the proposals that are developed by the interested candidates and that must in any case fall within one of the four granting mechanisms conceived: Multi-Year Research Projects, Advanced Research Workshops, Advanced Training Courses, and Advanced Study Institutes. In this way, all the proposals will enter a selection process that will evaluate the application for funding submitted, the presence in the proposal of one of the key priorities of SPS (Science for Peace and Security Programme), and its impact on safety, as well as the scientific merit.27

An example of the Science for Peace and Security project’s commitment has been the effective management of uranium industry wastes in the Central Asian Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, with the aim to prevent health risks and environmental damage. The extracted uranium resulted in high levels of technologically enhanced natural radioactivity (TENORM) and therefore, given the absence of waste management in most of these areas, there is a serious spread of contamination beyond existing contaminated sites.28 The project lays the groundwork to establish nationwide radon survey programs in the four concerned countries, with the aim to contribute to the establishment and upgrading of environmental radioactivity laboratories and to the training of personnel in the use of contemporary equipment, survey methods, and protocols.29 

Following almost the same approach as the United Nations, NATO developed the Science and Technology Organization (STO), which promotes the production of scientific researches, also in the environmental field, for the development of innovative methodologies and techniques in the training of the military. 30 These searches involve up to 6000 specifics and then result in real scientific reports that can be used by all the Allied. The STO is governed by the NATO Science and Technology Board (STB) and it has three executive bodies: the Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) in La Spezia, Italy; the Collaboration Support Office in Paris, France; and the Office of the Chief Scientist at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. The main STO activities concern noise reduction, and the use of greener ammunition, and in particular there has been a wide study conducted by the CMRE about the impact that sonar systems can have on marine mammals’ health. An ongoing activity that the STO is carrying out since the beginning of 2021 when NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg addressed the Leaders Summit on Climate and stated that NATO has recognized climate change as a security challenge and that the Alliance will work through climate change research. Additionally, COP26, the climate conference organized annually by the United Nations under the Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was held in Glasgow on the 12th of November 2021. On that occasion, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that <<climate change is a threat to global security and peace, and NATO is in the field to reduce the impact of our militaries and make sure that our missions and capabilities are increasingly green>>.31 The Secretary outlined the three lines of action he intends to pursue: awareness and understanding of the climate security nexus, military emissions reductions, and adapting their forces and operations to changing circumstances so that they can operate in all conditions. Working hand-in-hand, the three STO executive bodies provide analyses of climate scenarios to the Chief Scientist so that he can inform the Secretary-General, as well as the Nations, on how to best prepare for future security challenges.32 

Additionally, individual NATO member States and partners set up Trust Funds, to provide resources to partner countries so that they can implement practical projects to reduce their aging weapon stockpiles, clean up deteriorating rocket fuel, clear land contaminated by unexploded remnants of war and safely store ammunition. 33 It was first launched in September 2000 with the specific purpose to provide a practical mechanism in order to assist partners with the safe destruction of stockpiled anti-personnel landmines. Indeed it is common knowledge that the presence of landmines causes soil degradation, deforestation and the heavy metals of which they are made pollute water resources causing an alteration of entire species' populations by degrading habitats and altering food chains. Thanks to the Trust Funds project, countries have been able to meet their obligations under the Ottawa Convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel mines and their destruction.34 

The NATO Legal Gazette (2019, p. 27) makes clear that the goal of EP efforts is to do whatever is possible to plan in advance and in an effective way, also by providing smart and prompt advice to the staff, with the aim to minimize the damages that could affect the environment or human health negatively. Naturally, once the damage occurs without the possibility to prevent it, it is fundamental to address it and to carry on with the mission with the awareness not to repeat the same mistake in the future.




For a more effective outcome of their activities, the United Nations, in particular within the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and NATO started a collaboration by joining the Environment and Security Initiative (ENVSEC) together with other international partners, with the aim to contribute in reducing environment and security risks, strengthening cooperation between and within countries, providing a multistakeholder based analysis of environment and security risks and supporting a process whereby the identified risks are systematically addressed through strengthening policies, institutions, and capacities.35

Under ENVSEC the mechanism usually starts with a national request that identifies an environmental issue. After that, meetings and consultations are organized between various International Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in order to ensure optimal coordination, identify the most critical environmental issues that require urgent resolution, and at the same time promote the initiative among the community of donors in order to obtain the necessary funds;36 it is also relevant to identify environmental problems that can trigger conflicts, and when an agreement is reached, they launch the program.37

An example of this effective collaboration has been the assessment of environmental and security issues in Eastern Europe by supporting several activities in the Pripyat river basin shared by Belarus and Ukraine since 2008.38 In particular, the main job consisted in the application in Belarus of UNECE Guidance on Water and Adaptation to Climate Change and Guidelines on Sustainable Flood Prevention, with the aim of a flood risk assessment and monitoring of the situation that will be shared between the other ENVSEC projects. The results of this partnership have been encouraging: a comprehensive on-site assessment of flood risks in the Yaselda River Basin (a tributary of the Pripyat) was carried out, and an innovative flood warning system was developed, capable of integrating real-life monitoring data from automated assessment stations installed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); also the rating curves for converting the measured water level to water flow were obtained for all locations and provide to Belarusian Hydrometeorological Service which operates the automated posts.39 






We can surely affirm that the international community at this moment has a far better understanding of the degradation of the environment caused by the armed conflicts, and sometimes unintentionally from the impact provoked by the peacekeeping missions. 

It can be stated that both the UN and NATO have come up with a various multitude of solutions in recent years, not only for the direct protection of the environment but also by raising awareness on this delicate issue, which in fact concerns the entire world population. From direct mandates to peacekeepers during their missions, to funds set up specifically, environmental lessons given to populations who are victims of conflicts, and pieces of training organized for all soldiers and staff so that in situations of conflict they learn and prepare to pay attention to environmental issues. The measures are constantly evolving and are increasingly aimed at prevention rather than resolution of a problem caused, as it had been until a few years ago. 

To date, as it has been observed, a number of current peacekeeping missions have independently adopted environmental policies and undertaken impressive and far-reaching measures to introduce resource-efficient technologies to diminish the environmental impacts of their operations. Also, all major peace agreements signed between 2005 and 2011 have included detailed provisions on natural resources, as compared with only 50 percent of the agreements concluded between 1989 and 2004.40 The doctrine developed by the UN and NATO forms a solid basis for legal advisers, EP specialists, and other stakeholders to advise on the EP mission requirements.

Many of the measures adopted by NATO are equivalent to those of the UN and vice versa, however, especially in the field of peace operations and therefore prevention, the rules are different, and they are based mainly on SOFA, UN resolutions, agreements, and documents drawn up by the various organizations. So there is still no international binding law that can operate for all types of peace operations, but each organization uses its own funds, programs, and procedures. 

Despite the progress that has been made, sometimes the tools in place are insufficient for monitoring compliance or to concretize effectively what is written on paper. In fact, a successful implementation continues to be hampered by a combination of factors: lack of monitoring mechanism, uncertainty in the duration of the mission which prevents a correct evaluation of costs and resources, and the political will of the host country to tackle illegal exploitation and the inability of the host-government to manage high-value natural resources in a transparent manner.41 To better face these issues and implement policies and guidelines designed by organizations, it is fundamental to strengthen the capacity to deliver early warning and early action in countries that are vulnerable to conflicts over natural resources and environmental issues, but also to integrate natural resource and environmental issues into post-conflict planning, and building better cooperation between all the organizations dealing with the environmental issue in this particular stage of the armed conflict.

Furthermore, De Coning (2021) explains that during the Covid-19 pandemic the peacekeeping missions have gone through a phase of uncertainty and confusion as the virus significantly disrupted UN peacekeeping operations, forcing the international organizations to limit the operations to the most essential ones and necessarily excluding those mandates specifically aimed at environmental protection. 

After these unprecedented times, future peacekeeping operations are likely to be guided by a principled adaptive approach, which will allow them to adapt to the realities of the moment while remaining true to their fundamental form and identity. This approach is indeed driven by a set of principles that help the system maintain its core identity and function, some of which could be embodied in the very principles that are the offspring of the work of the International Law Commission.
















References cited

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1 Third Generation Human Rights and Good Governance', (, June 2021), , accessed 27 June 2022.

2 The evolution of human rights,, accessed 27 June 2022.

3 UNEP, From Conflict to Peacebuilding. The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment, 2009, p. 15.

4 UN Operational Support – Environment,, accessed 27 June 2022.

5 The Department of Operational Support – Our Approach,, accessed 27 June 2022. 

6 Ibidem.

7 Ibidem. 

8 MINUSMA – Environment,, accessed 27 June 2022.

9 MINUSMA,, accessed 27 June 2022. 

10 UNEP - Greening the Blue Initiative,, accessed 27 June 2022. 

11 UNEP - UN environment strategy for environmental education and training,, accessed 27 June 2022. 

12 UNEP - Greening the Blue Helmets, Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations, 2012, p. 22,, accessed 27 June 2022. 

13 Idem, p. 22.

14 NATO/NSO, ‘Environment’ (NATOTerm: The Official NATO Terminology Database, 31 October 2013),, accessed 27 June 2022. 

15 Environment – NATO's stake,, accessed 27 June 2022. 

16 NATO - Environment, climate change and security, accessed 27 June 2022. 

17 Ibidem.

18 Ibidem.

19 Environment – NATO's stake,, accessed 27 June 2022. 

20 NATO Standardization Document Database, accessed on 10 June 2021. 

21 NATO/SPS Short Term Project, Environmental Aspects Of Military Compounds, (report n. 283), 2008, p. 12.

22 Environment – NATO's stake,, accessed 27 June 2022. 

23 Environment – NATO's stake,, accessed 27 June 2022.

24 NATO - Science for Peace and Security Programme,, accessed 27 June 2022. 

25 NATO - Science for Peace and Security: environmental security,, accessed 27 June 2022. 

26 Ibidem.

27 NATO - Science for Peace and Security Programme,, accessed 27 June 2022.

28 NATO - Science for Peace project - SfP 981742, accessed 27 June 2022.

29 Ibidem.

30 NATO Science and Technology Organization,, accessed 27 June 2022.

31 Europa, Cop26:Stoltenberg,cambiamenti climatici minaccia a sicurezza,, accessed 13 May 2022. 

32 NATO STO, Science and Technology Organization Action on Climate Change,, accessed 27 June 2022. 

33 NATO Trust Funds: supporting demilitarization and defense transformation projects,,with%20NATO%20may%20request%20assistance.&text=Projects%20may%20be%20initiated%20by%20either%20NATO%20member%20states%20or%20partner%20countries, accessed 27 June 2022. 

34 Ibidem. 

35 ENVSEC,, accessed 27 June 2022. 

36 NATO - Interaction with international organisations (ENVSEC),, accessed 27 June 2022. 

37 ENVSEC,, accessed 27 June 2022. 

38 Environment and Security Initiative Annual Report 2016,, p. 43.

39Idem, p. 44.

40 UNEP - Greening the Blue Initiative,, accessed 27 June 2022. p. 78. 

41 Ibid.