Signs that militaries are taking environmental protection more seriously but they have a long way to go to ensure it is protected in relation to armed conflicts.
The State expert meeting on international humanitarian law: protecting the environment in armed conflicts was held on 24, 26, 31 January and 2 February 2023. It was organized and chaired by Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The meeting brought together almost 380 experts, primarily from ministries of defense, environment and foreign affairs, from over 120 countries. In addition, expert resource persons from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN International Law Commission (ILC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) attended certain sessions to support the exchange among states and answer technical questions.
The objective of the State expert meeting was to contribute to achieving realistic and pragmatic progress on the national implementation of international humanitarian law (IHL) relating to the protection of the natural environment in armed conflicts. The meeting did not aim to discuss applicable IHL rules or the legal interpretation of them. Rather, it sought to collectively identify challenges and practices related to the protection of the natural environment in armed conflicts – without criticism regarding the practice of individual states – on three core areas:
1. Disseminating, training and integrating at the national level IHL rules regarding the protection of the natural environment;
2. Assessing the effects of military operations on the natural environment and the implications for operations;
3. Identifying and designating areas of particular environmental importance or fragility as demilitarized zones.