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Sir Mutha MUN Conference


United Nations Environment Programme

The United Nations Environment Programme is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the UN and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.


Protection of Environment during armed conflict


Greetings Delegates,

It gives us utmost pleasure to welcome you all to the United Nations Environment Program of this edition of Sir Mutha Model United Nations. In a world of various natural resources and widespread pollution, we believe it is the responsibility of nations to promote greater awareness and facilitate effective cooperation in the implementation of international environmental agendas.

As members of the Executive board, we expect delegates of the United Nations Environment Program to participate in dialogue with diplomacy, accountability and responsibility with their respective country’s viewpoints. We encourage delegates to unlock their potential and provide viable and fruitful solutions for the committee to progress.

Please note that this background guide is only to provide delegates a mere introductory documentation of the agenda with a basic percipience of the it ,in order to help direct research towards the agenda. We strongly advise against limiting your research to the back ground guide and would want the delegates to keep in mind that each delegate’s country would play an essential role in determining the outcome of the committee.

The Executive Board promises these two days to be an memorable learning experience and feel free to approach the Executive Board to clarify any queries regarding the agenda.


United Nations Environment Program

Introduction to the UNEP

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is an agency of the United Nations, that coordinates the organization's environmental activities and assists developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. UN Environment activities cover a wide range of issue regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance and the green economy. It played a significant role in developing international environmental conventions, promoting environmental science information and illustrating the way those can be implemented in relation with policy, working on the development and implementation of policy with national governments, regional institutions in connection with environmental NGOs. UN has also been active in funding and implementing environment related development projects. They have seven main focus one of which is ecosystem management. They work with communities and government players for sustainable improvement.

Overview of the Agenda

Ever since the beginning of this century, the world has witnessed more than 2,500 disasters and 40 major conflicts.These tragic events – which have affected more than two billion people – destroy infrastructure, displace populations, and fundamentally undermine human security. They also compound poverty and tear apart the fabric of sustainable development. Despite the protection afforded by several important legal instruments, the environment continues to be the silent victim of armed conflicts worldwide. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has conducted over twenty post-conflict assessments since 1999, and has used various scientific methods to determine the environmental impacts of war. From Kosovo to Afghanistan, Sudan and the Gaza Strip, It has been found that armed conflict causes significant harm to the environment and the communities that depend on natural resources. Direct and indirect environmental damage, coupled with the collapse of institutions, lead to environmental risks that can threaten people’s health, livelihoods and security, and ultimately undermine post-conflict peacebuilding. The exploitation and illegal trade of natural resources frequently fuel and prolong armed conflict, particularly in countries where laws and institutions have been weakened or have collapsed. As peacebuilding often addresses the allocation, access and ownership of natural resources, there is an urgent need to strengthen their protection during armed conflict. There can be no durable peace if the natural resources that sustain livelihoods are damaged, degraded, and destroyed.There is a need present in today ‘s world to look upon the pre-existing international environmental laws, conventions, agreements to foster environmental protection

Impacts of War on the environment

The application of weapons, the destruction of structures and oil fields, fires, military transport movements and chemical spraying are all examples of the destroying impact war may have on the environment. Air, water and soil are polluted, man and animal are killed, and numerous health affects occur among those still living. This page is about the environmental effects of wars and incidents leading to war that have occurred in the 20th and 21st century.

Environmental effects in timeline

Nearly 1.5 billion people, over 20 per cent of the world’s population, live in conflict-affected areas and fragile states. Decades of ugly wars in countries such as Afghanistan, Colombia or Iraq have led to the immense loss of natural resources. In Afghanistan alone, one can witness astounding deforestation rates which have reached 95 per cent in some areas. In 2017, the Islamic State triggered vast toxic clouds by setting ablaze oil wells and a sulfur factory near the Iraqi city of Mosul, poisoning the landscape and people. Critical biodiversity hotspots in Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan have offered cover and refuge for rebel groups. This has been disastrous for wildlife and forest conservation as these habitats have opened the doors to illegal logging, unregulated mining, massive poaching and breeding grounds for invasive species. Elephant populations have been decimated in DR Congo and Central African Republic, while in Ukraine the Siverskyi Donets River has been further damaged by pollution from the conflict. In Gaza, Yemen, and elsewhere, water infrastructure, from groundwater wells to wastewater treatment plants and pumping stations to desalination plants have been damaged, posing environmental and public health risks. It would be a dangerous mistake to ignore these environmental consequences of conflict, and the international community needs to act with greater urgency.

International Environment Law

By the end of the 20th century various international legal frameworks were put in place as an outcome of numerous multi-lateral discussions.There is substantial variation in how international environmental law (IEL) addresses the question of applicability during times of armed conflict. Some Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA) directly or indirectly address the question of their continuance during hostilities, either by inference or by express statement. Other MEAs specifically state that they are automatically suspended, terminated or inapplicable once armed conflict has begun. Still others remain silent on the issue. Of the various MEAs analysed a small number (less than 20 percent) clearly state their discontinuance during armed conflict. The remaining 80 percent are roughly evenly divided between those containing language that might directly or indirectly bear on their continuance and those that contain no such language at all. It is important to note, however, that in most cases, whether the provisions apply depends largely on the methodology adopted to determine when IEL remains in force during armed conflict.

MEAs that directly or indirectly provide for their application during armed conflict

MEAs are binding international instruments to which more than two States are a Party. The breach of an MEA gives rise to State responsibility. In addition, a growing number of compliance mechanisms provide means to facilitate (or compell, if necessary) States to comply with MEA provisions. The following section identifies and describes the MEA provisions that may be relevant to armed conflict, as well as those that directly or indirectly bear on whether the agreement as a whole continues in force after the commencement of hostilities.

Major Pre-existing International Legal Frameworks:

International Committee of The Red Cross(ICRC)

The ICRC is an independent, neutral organization ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence. It takes action in response to emergencies and promotes respect for international humanitarian law and its implementation in national law. It issued a set of guidelines in 1994 that summarized the existing applicable international rules for protecting the environment during armed conflict. These guidelines were meant to be reflected in military manuals and national legislation as a means to raise awareness and help limit damage to the environment in times of war. Despite this important step international momentum to address the issue – particularly through a formal binding instrument – slowed by the end of the 20th century.

UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (1982)

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was concluded in 1982 and entered into force in 1994. Intended to serve as a “Constitution for the Oceans,” UNCLOS establishes a framework for marine governance designed to foster international peace and security. UNCLOS provides for freedom of the high seas,which are explicitly reserved for peaceful purposes.

International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil (OILPOL) (1954)

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil (OILPOL), which was concluded in 1954, prohibits ships from discharging oil within 50 miles of the shore. OILPOL directly addresses the question of its applicability during times of armed conflict.

UN Convention to Combat Desertification (1994)

The Convention states that it does not affect the rights or obligations contained in any prior international agreement. The following multilateral environmental agreements also do not address the question of their applicability in times of war: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (1973); Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985); Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987); United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992); Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2001); Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) (1979); Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (1998).

Chemical Weapons Convention

The Convention aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States Parties. States Parties, in turn, must take the steps necessary to enforce that prohibition in respect of persons (natural or legal) within their jurisdiction.

All States Parties have agreed to chemically disarm by destroying any stockpiles of chemical weapons they may hold and any facilities which produced them, as well as any chemical weapons they abandoned on the territory of other States Parties in the past. States Parties have also agreed to create a verification regime for certain toxic chemicals and their precursors (listed in Schedules 1, 2 and 3 in the Annex on Chemicals) in order to ensure that such chemicals are only used for purposes not prohibited under the Convention.

A unique feature of the Convention is its incorporation of the ‘challenge inspection’, whereby any State Party in doubt about another State Party’s compliance can request a surprise inspection. Under the Convention’s ‘challenge inspection’ procedure, States Parties have committed themselves to the principle of ‘any time, anywhere’ inspections with no right of refusal.

The existing international legal framework – including international humanitarian law, international criminal law, international environmental law, and human rights law – contains many provisions that either directly or indirectly protect the environment and govern the use of natural resources during armed conflict. In practice, however, these provisions have not always been effectively implemented or enforced. Where the international community has sought to hold States and individuals responsible for environmental harm caused during armed conflict,results have largely been poor, with one notable exception: holding Iraq accountable for damages caused during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, including for billions of dollars worth of compensation for environmental damage.


There have been various environmental damages due to armed conflicts in various parts of the world but here are a few notable examples.

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War started in 1945 and ended in 1975. It is now entitled a proxy war, fought during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union to prevent the necessity for the nations to fight each other directly. North Vietnam fought side by side with the Soviet Union and China, and South Vietnam with the United States, New Zealand and South Korea. It must be noted that the United States only started to be actively involved in the battle after 1963. Between 1965 and 1968 North Vietnam was bombed under Operation Rolling Thunder, in order to force the enemy to negotiate. Bombs destroyed over two million acres of land. North Vietnam forces began to strike back, and the Soviet Union delivered anti-aircraft missiles to North Vietnam. The ground war of US troops against the Viet Cong began. The United States would not retreat from Vietnam until 1973, and during those years extremely environmentally damaging weapons and war tactics were applied.

A massive herbicidal programme was carried out, in order to break the forest cover sheltering Viet Cong guerrillas, and deprive Vietnamese peasants of food. The spraying destroyed 14% of Vietnam’s forests, diminished agricultural yield, and made seeds unfit for replanting. If agricultural yield was not damaged by herbicides, it was often lost because military on the ground set fire to haystacks, and soaked land with aviation fuel en burned it. A total of 15,000 square kilometres of land were eventually destroyed. Livestock was often shot, to deprive peasant of their entire food supply. A total of 13,000 livestock were killed during the war.

The application of 72 million litres of chemical spray resulted in the death of many animals, and caused health effects with humans. One chemical that was applied between 1962 and 1971, called Agent Orange, was particularly harmful. Its main constituent is dioxin, which was present in soil, water and vegetation during and after the war. Dioxin is carcinogenic and teratogenic, and has resulted in spontaneous abortions, chloracne, skin and lung cancers, lower intelligence and emotional problems among children. Children fathered by men exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War often have congenital abnormalities. An estimated half a million children were born with dioxin-related abnormalities. Agent Orange continues to threaten the health of the Vietnamese today.

Enviromental Damage in the Forests of Vietnam leading to Deforestation

Before and After effects of Usage of Agent Orange

IRAQ & The United States

The war in Iraq started by the United States in 2003 as part of the War on Terrorism causes poverty, resulting in environmental problems. Long-term environmental effects of the war remain unclear, but short-term problems have been identified for every environmental compartment. For example, some weapons are applied that may be extremely damaging to the environment, such as white phosphorus ammunition. People around the world protest the application of such armory.


Damage to sanitation structures by frequent bombing, and damage to sewage treatment systems by power blackouts cause pollution of the River Tigris. Two hundred blue plastic containers containing uranium were stolen from a nuclear power plant located south of Baghdad. The radioactive content of the barrels was dumped in rivers and the barrels were rinsed out. Poor people applied the containers as storage facility for water, oil and tomatoes, or sold them to others. Milk was transported to other regions in the barrels, making it almost impossible to relocate them.


Oil trenches are burning, as was the case in the Gulf War of 1991, resulting in air pollution. In Northern Iraq, a sulphur plant burned for one month, contributing to air pollution. As fires continue burning, groundwater applied as a drinking water source may be polluted.


Military movements and weapon application result in land degradation. The destruction of military and industrial machinery releases heavy metals and other harmful substances.

Russia & Chechnya

In 1994 the First Chechen War of independence started, between Russian troops, Chechen guerrilla fighters and civilians. Chechnya has been a province of Russia for a very long time and now desires independence. The First War ended in 1996, but in 1999 Russia again attacked Chechnya for purposes of oil distribution.

The war between the country and its province continues today. It has devastating effects on the region of Chechnya. An estimated 30% of Chechen territory is contaminated, and 40% of the territory does not meet environmental standards for life. Major environmental problems include radioactive waste and radiation, oil leaks into the ground from bombarded plants and refineries, and pollution of soil and surface water. Russia has buried radioactive waste in Chechnya. Radiation at some sites is ten times its normal level. Radiation risks increase as Russia bombs the locations, particularly because after 1999 the severeness of weaponry increased. A major part of agricultural land is polluted to the extent that it can no longer meet food supplies. This was mainly caused by unprofessional mini-refineries of oil poachers in their backyards, not meeting official standards and causing over 50% of the product to be lost as waste. Groundwater pollution flows into the rivers Sunzha and Terek on a daily basis. On some locations the rivers are totally devoid of fish. Flora and fauna are destroyed by oil leaks and bombings.

Important areas of discussion the committee to address :

  • Environmental Effects of armed Conflicts and warzones in distinct arras such as land,water and air
  • Applicability of Various International environmental laws;
  • Improving pre-exisiting environmental laws;
  • Implementation of numerous environmental laws with respect to your delegations;
  • Addressing the after effects of an environmental