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Environment, Humanitarian Action and Early Recovery


Disasters and conflicts often impact the environment in ways that threaten human life, health, livelihoods and security. Whether through direct damage to land, water or air, or through coping strategies that indirectly stress scarce natural resources, environmental impacts in the aftermath of crisis can threaten the success of recovery activities by leaving populations with degraded natural resources and vulnerable to future crises.
Moreover, the relief and early recovery operations that follow disasters and conflicts can also have significant environmental impacts, as poor choices in camp siting and waste management practices, for example, or the unsustainable use of resources such as water and timber during the humanitarian phase can leave crisis-prone regions on paths that deflect from long-term recovery, stability and development.
Indeed, a failure to address these issues at the outset can undermine the relief process, causing further damage, such as additional loss of life, displacement, aid dependency and increased vulnerability. 
As the focal point for environment within the humanitarian coordination system, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) formally established a programme in Environment, Humanitarian Action and Early Recovery in 2009 to mainstream environmental issues within humanitarian and early recovery operations in order to minimize possible environmental impacts and ensure they do no harm with regard to longer-term vulnerability and development.
With a view to adequately addressing environmental needs in (post-) crisis situations, UNEP is providing technical support and building capacity to integrate environmental considerations within the UN humanitarian coordination system. The programme comprises the following four main pillars:
  • Integration of environmental needs within Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and cluster policies and operations;
  • Establishment of an global-level Environment Network, including humanitarian, (early) recovery and environmental actors and associate institution experts as a community of practice and an information sharing platform;
  • Training programmes for humanitarian and (early) recovery actors to integrate environmental issues within their operations; and
  • In-country support and provision of real-time technical assistance.
UNEP’s Environment, Humanitarian Action and Early Recovery programme has a global scope and is primarily focused on changing the mindset, policy development and operating procedures of humanitarian actors and donors.
To this end, UNEP will work through key mechanisms including the humanitarian coordination system (IASC cluster approach), the IASC Cluster Working Group on Early Recovery (CWGER) and other clusters of concern, and with other critical stakeholders including UN and non-UN actors, national structures and the donor community.
Tools and guidance will be disseminated globally and will be shared through the Environment Network website. Trainings will be mainly conducted in disaster-prone regions and countries affected by humanitarian crises.
For more information on UNEP’s Environment, Humanitarian Action and Early Recovery programme please contact Tom Delrue, Programme Officer on: