Protecting the environment during armed conflict: What are the next steps?

Webinar · 26.05.2021 10:00 - 11:30

Armed conflict always destroys and pollutes the environment. Left unattended, the environmental impact of warfare will extend far beyond the end of a conflict, harming public health, ecosystems, livelihoods, and the security of people for decades.

While the environment has often been ignored as a victim of conflict, in recent years, several international processes have made progress in addressing wartime environmental damage. At the United Nations, the International Law Commission (ILC) will finalize its work on new principles for the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict (PERAC principles) in 2022. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) published an updated iteration of its Guidelines on the Protection of the Natural Environment in Armed Conflict in 2020.

States will need to put these principles and guidelines in practice. While these new principles and guidelines have contributed to momentum surrounding the environment in conflict, how can the ICRC, UN, civil society actors, and states improve the implementation of these principles and guidelines? This webinar will reflect on the development of the principles and guidelines on environmental protection in and in relation to armed conflicts, what challenges need to be overcome and actions can be taken to disseminate them, and what mechanisms will need to be developed for states to put the protection of the environment in practice.

Registration by Monday 24 May to


Opening remarks & chair

Emma Hakala

Senior Research Fellow, FIIA; Postdoctoral Researcher, Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights, University of Helsinki

Emma Hakala is Senior Research Fellow at FIIA. She defended her doctoral dissertation in political history in 2018 under the title “International Organisations and the Securitisation of the Environment in post-Conflict Western Balkans”. Dr Hakala’s broader research interest is on environmental and climate security. She has also done research and published on sustainable energy issues, environmental citizenship in the Balkans and local water sustainability cooperation in Nepal. Dr Hakala’s current research explores new practices to respond and adapt to environmental security threats in the context of Finland. She is a member of the BIOS Research Unit and the WISE project (Creative adaptation to wicked socio-environmental disruptions).


Marja Lehto

UN International Law Commission, Special Rapporteur on the Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflicts

Marja Lehto is Ambassador and Senior Expert in public international law at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and Adjunct Professor of international law at the University of Helsinki. Since 2017, she is member of the UN International Law Commission and Special Rapporteur for the topic “Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflicts”.

Vanessa Murphy

Legal Adviser, International Committee of the Red Cross

Vanessa Murphy is a Thematic Legal Adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva, where she is responsible for legal issues related to the protection of the environment among other files. Since 2017, she has worked as one of the authors on the ICRC’s updated Guidelines on the Protection of the Natural Environment in Armed Conflict, which were released in September 2020. Prior to joining the ICRC, Ms Murphy’s professional experience includes her work at AO Advocates, a UK-based law firm specialising in litigation for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and as Head of Development at Hestia, a UK NGO delivering support services for victims of sexual violence and human-trafficking. Her professional experience also includes work for the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces, Human Rights Now, and the International Criminal Law Media Review. Ms Murphy holds an LLM in international humanitarian law from the Geneva Academy, a Graduate Diploma in Law in the UK, and a BA in Political Science from Yale University.

Jani Leino

Legal Adviser, Finnish Red Cross

Jani Leino has served as the international humanitarian law (IHL) legal advisor of the Finnish Red Cross since 2005. Before working for the Red Cross, Jani Leino assisted Professor Martin Scheinin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, worked at the legal department of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and did research on terrorism and human rights at Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights of Helsinki University. He holds a Master of Laws from Columbia Law School (2004) and a Master of Political Sciences from Åbo Akademi University (2002).

Doug Weir

Research and Policy Director, Conflict and Environment Observatory

Doug Weir has undertaken research and advocacy on the polluting legacy of armed conflicts and military activities since 2005. A former coordinator of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, he later expanded his work to encompass conflict pollution and the toxic remnants of war, before establishing the Conflict and Environment Observatory to monitor and raise awareness of the environmental and derived humanitarian consequences of conflicts. Mr Weir has contributed to a wide range of domestic, regional and international initiatives on conflict and the environment, with a particular focus on the work of the UN Environment Assembly and on the progressive development of the legal framework protecting the environment in relation to armed conflicts. He holds degrees in Geology and Print Journalism from Manchester and Sheffield universities, and is a Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Geography at King's College London.