12 - Environmental justice in situations of armed conflict  pp. 231-252

Environmental justice in situations of armed conflict

By Phoebe Okowa

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Introduction

Questions of environmental justice, whether in the form of procedural rights or corrective remedies, as such, have on the whole not featured prominently in the legal developments governing the conduct of war. One of the unintended consequences of the Gulf War of 1991 was that it brought to the fore in profound and unexpected ways the seriousness of environmental damage caused by warfare. International conferences, United Nations agencies and the academic literature immediately started treating the issue as one of some urgency, requiring coherent and comprehensive action at the international level. There were even suggestions that a third Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions specifically dedicated to preventing environmental damage should be enacted. Central to these debates was the realisation that the existing normative framework did not contain procedural and substantive constraints for preventing environmental damage. The debates also revealed other significant gaps in the substantive content of responsibility for war-related damage, which had not, until now, addressed the question of who should bear responsibility for environmental damage and what form the distribution of burdens and risks should take.

This chapter takes as its starting point the inevitability of war as an activity, which although not always sanctioned by international law is nevertheless regulated by it, in particular, in terms of minimising its effects. A number of chapters in this volume consider participatory rights as the most developed medium for the realisation of environmental justice.

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