Humanitarian operations go green
Humanitarian work saves lives and helps those in distress. But emergency operations can also cause environmental damage. A new online tool from UNEP aims to reduce the environmental impact of humanitarian relief around the world.
Geneva, 19 August 2010 - Humanitarian action and relief efforts save lives and provide essential aid in the aftermath of natural disasters, conflicts and other crisis. But despite this critical role, humanitarian actions can result in damage to the environment, which is not often prioritised as a life saving issue.
A new online resource centre developed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will help boost efforts to reduce the environmental impact of humanitarian relief and recovery operations around the world.
Launched today, on World Humanitarian Day, the Resource Centre for Mainstreaming Environment into Humanitarian Action is the first online collection of practical information explaining how to integrate environmental considerations into humanitarian action.
The new website features guidelines, training materials, case studies and other tools and is intended as a handbook for humanitarian workers. The site can be accessed at http://postconflict.unep.ch/humanitarianaction
Actions like cutting down trees to provide shelter and firewood and the inadequate management of medical waste can impact the success of recovery activities by putting stress on natural resources and livelihoods, thereby leaving populations vulnerable to future crises.
In the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for example, the size and density of settlements for internally displaced persons has led to severe degradation of wildlife populations, trees and other natural resources in some areas, even encroaching on the Virunga National Park.
Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January, emergency food distribution resulted in a big increase in solid and liquid waste, mainly due to packaging. Additionally, the distribution of raw food has increased the need for charcoal, which can lead to the removal of even more trees in a country with an estimated total forest cover of just 2-4%.
Making relief and recovery operations more environmentally-sound will ensure that both human welfare and the environment are protected and conserved in response to a disaster or conflict.
Several best practices have proven that including environmental considerations in humanitarian operations is not only better for the environment but also cost-effective, such as sending supplies by ship rather than by air.
UNEP has set up the resource centre in response to a clear need from humanitarian organisations for reliable and current information on incorporating environmental considerations into their policy and strategy development, programme design and relief activities.
More than 150 resources from over 20 organisations are already featured on the website, arranged according to sector and environmental issue.
To ensure the resource centre provides the best available current information, UNEP is calling for contributions of resources in any language from NGOs, governments, UN agencies, private sector and academic and research institutions.
UNEP also welcomes further feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to make the resource centre as useful and relevant as possible for a wide range of humanitarian personnel.
UNEP will continue to work with partner organisations to ensure environmental considerations are effectively integrated in the international humanitarian system.
Notes to Editors
UNEP is focused on ensuring that environmental issues are integrated into humanitarian action at every phase of response efforts - relief, recovery and reconstruction - in order to adequately address environmental needs in emergency and post-emergency situations.
Most humanitarian programmes and operations intersect in a variety of ways with the environment, from providing shelter and protection to logistics and energy. UNEP works with humanitarian actors to build capacity and awareness to improve the way in which operations are carried out.
As part of its Disasters and Conflicts programme, UNEP leads training, serves as the liaison with clusters and partner organizations regarding environmental issues, provides in-country expertise and facilitates policy and advocacy efforts for members of the international humanitarian community.
For further information please contact
Bryan Coll, UNEP/Nairobi, +254 20 7623088 mobile +254 711 203 148 Email: email@example.com
Silja Halle, Disasters and Conflicts programme, UNEP Geneva, Tel: +41 22 917 8441 or firstname.lastname@example.org