Reducing Environmental Impacts and Improving Outcomes

Methods and Lessons  to Improve Humanitarian Response and Outcomes

Washington Exchange Meeting: November 5 and 6, 2013

Geneva Exchange Meeting: December 3 and 4, 2013


Current good practice for humanitarian and military operations[1] is to minimize the negative environmental consequences of operations by assessing and addressing impacts and reducing resource use.  For the military community, these outcomes are incorporated into policy and doctrine of national military establishments as well as those of NATO, the European Union through its EU Military Staff (EUMS)[2] and the UN Department of Peace Keeping Operations/ Department of Field Support (DPKO/DFS). These policies and approaches are being incorporated into peace support operations in South Sudan, and elsewhere.

For the humanitarian and environmental community[3], the objectives to avoid, minimize, or mitigate negative environmental consequences are based on the 1997 SPHERE Project Initiative, the 1994 Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief, and the 2005 Hyogo Framework.  Policy guidance, tools and trainings to these ends are widely available. The United Nations Environment Program, World Wildlife Fund, American Red Cross, Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), the Joint United Nations Environment Program/Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance Environment Unit and other organizations have incorporated environmental issues into their operations or promoted this approach across the humanitarian community.

While the military and humanitarian establishments have different mandates and operating parameters, these tend to overlap in peace keeping and peace enforcement, and in military support to disaster relief and recovery operations in non-conflict situations. In most of these situations, the military is expected to provide support to humanitarian organizations, ranging from security to significant logistical capacities. At the same time, humanitarian organizations have considerable expertise in engagement of disaster-affected populations in relief and recovery, an area in which the military is generally not focused.

Many militaries and their civil coordinating structures have  policies and procedures which integrate consideration of environmental issues into overall planning and implementation. This allows military staff to, for instance, systematically consider cost-effective sourcing of energy (e.g., generators or solar panels) or cumulative impacts of resource use (e.g., pumping ground water or sourcing fuel for cooking). Humanitarian staff tend to function in a more individualized manner, allowing for leading edge as well as donor-directed innovation. In this context, humanitarian operations can likely draw some innovation from the military experience and vice versa.

A number of actors in the humanitarian, environmental and military communities have identified an opportunity for an exchange of experiences between the humanitarian and military communities on environmentally positive approaches, methods and lessons to improve the effectiveness of support to crisis and disaster-affected populations.

Goal, Objectives, Outputs

The goal of the exchange of environmental policies, practices and experience between the military and humanitarian communities is to improve the overall impact of humanitarian action by reducing the potential for negative environmental impacts.

The objectives of the exchange are to:

  • Identify environmental policies, practices and experience of the humanitarian and military communities which could benefit the other community, and,

  • Define how collaboration on environmental issues between the military and humanitarian communities can strengthen the effectiveness of efforts to assist crisis and disaster survivors

  • Identify gaps, commonalities and areas for priority action.

The exchanges are expected to result in three key outputs:

  1. An identification of key areas, methods, approaches and technologies to improve the environmental performance of humanitarian operations that can be shared between, military, military-coordinating and humanitarian communities.
  2. Identification and engagement with, existing networks to exchange methods, approaches and technologies to improve the environmental performance of humanitarian and military operations between humanitarian, military and military-coordinating communities.
  3. An action framework for improving the environmental impact of military, humanitarian and military-coordinating communities.

An interim report will be prepared after the first exchange as input to the second exchange. A final report will be prepared and circulated following the second exchange.

 Who Should Attend?

  • Senior management staff involved in humanitarian operations, including preparedness, relief and recovery.
  • Senior management staff involved in environmental conservation and natural resource management.
  • Staff from donors involved in funding humanitarian operations.
  • Military organizations involved at the national and international levels.
  • Global and regional structures for coordinating military and humanitarian operations.
  • Academics and research institutions involved in humanitarian and military operations.

Participation in each of the two exchanges is expected to be limited to 30 persons, selected to balance the military, humanitarian and environmental communities.

Locations and Dates

Two exchanges are planned:

  • Washington D.C., on 5 and 6 November 2013, at Environmental Law Institute, 2000 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036
  • Geneva on 3 and 4 December, 2013, at location to be announced

Costs and Funding: the exchanges are being organized on a self-funding basis. There is no attendance fee. No funding is available to support travel of participants.

Distance Participation: efforts are underway to enable participation in general sessions through Web access. Details will be posted at [add web address] and shared with participants who indicate they may not be able to attend in person.

Registration: Please complete the REGISTRATION FORM

  • Registration for the Washington meeting should be received by 25 October, 2013
  • Registration for the Geneva meeting should be received by 22 November, 2013.

 Tentative Agenda Each exchange meeting is scheduled over one and one half days. A tentative agenda for each meeting is provided below. The sponsors are identifying specific presenters lead sessions and session moderators.



Day One

1230 – 1300 Registration
1300 – 1305 Administrative details
1305-1320 Welcoming
1320-1345 Framing the Exchange (Washington)
1320-1345 Framing the Exchange (Geneva)
1345 – 1415 Introductions
1415-1515 Military Engagement in Environmental Issues
1515 – 1530 Break
1530 – 1630 Humanitarian Engagement In Environmental Issues
1630 – 1645 Preview of Day 2
1645 – 1700 Summary of results

Day Two

0900 – 0910 Administrative details
0910 – 0915 Preview of day
0915-1015 Humanitarian Case Studies
1015-1030 Break
1030-1130 Military Case Studies
1130- 1150 The Environmental Community Perspective
1150 – 1200 Post-Lunch Discussion Group Instructions
1200 – 1300 Lunch
1300 – 1430 Working groups
1430 – 1500 Reporting from groups
1500 – 1530 Break
1515 – 1600 Panel Review of Group Outputs
1600 – 1645 Open discussion on way forward
1645 – 1700 Summary and Closing

[1] Peace keeping, peace enforcement and military support to humanitarian operations where the primary intent is not aggression against any specific party.

[2] Including traditional relief agencies (UNHCR, CARE, etc.), donor agents (e.g., USAID, CHAP/DFID, MSB/Sida, etc), funders (e.g., Asia Development Bank, InterAmerican Development Bank, etc.) or environmental agencies (e.g., WWF, The Nature Conservancy).