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Environment in Humanitarian Action

While the immediate priorities for humanitarian actors include saving lives, reducing human suffering, and jump-starting recovery, there is increasing understanding and awareness amongst the humanitarian community on the need to integrate environment into programmes and operations.

Addressing environmental issues during the early phases has multiple benefits and provides the potential to do the following:

  • Address the underlying environmental issues that may have contributed to the crises or disaster in the first place as well as reducing the risk of reoccurrence
  • Improve affected communities’ health and safety through reduction of air and water pollution (e.g. management of hazardous materials and solid wastes).
  • Protect livelihoods by safeguarding natural resources upon which those livelihoods depend.
  • Protect people and the environment from future hazards through mitigation activities.

Further, proactively addressing environmental issues can slow or reverse trends that lead to deforestation, desertification, soil erosion and pollution, which impact significantly community resilience, biodiversity, food security and economic development.

Environment and Emergencies Forum

The Environment and Emergencies Forum (EEF) is the only global forum focused on the interface between the environment and disasters. This biennial forum brings together stakeholders from around the world to showcase innovations in environmental emergency preparedness and response, and to highlight current efforts on integrating environmental risk in humanitarian action. The Forum offers environment and disaster management practitioners a unique opportunity to discuss global policy, share experiences and knowledge, forge new partnerships and agree on key actions.

The 2017 Environment and Emergencies Forum "From crisis to opportunity: building resilience by managing environmental risk in emergencies" will take place from 26-28 September in Nairobi, Kenya. Hosted by UN Environment, the Forum will explore the nexus of environmental risk and humanitarian crisis against the backdrop of other trends such as urbanization and industrialization. It will further provide a platform for taking action to address the environmental dimensions of emergencies. For more information about this event, please click here.

The 2015 EEF was held in Oslo, Norway on June 1st, 2015.
This forum showcased experiences and innovations in improving prevention, preparedness and response to environmental emergencies, and for ensuring the integration of environmental concerns into humanitarian action. Featuring a keynote speech by Jan Egeland, and experts in climate change, disasters and stormchasing, the agenda was packed with exciting and motivating speakers. For more information on the 2015 EEF, visit our website.

Environment Marker

The Environment Marker was developed by UN Environment and is a self-screening and environmental management tool for humanitarian response projects. Each humanitarian project should identify its potential impact on the local environment, and address it in a manner which is tailored to the specific country. The Environment Marker is designed to be a straightforward, self-assessment tool to help track a project's environmental impacts. It also offers mechanisms to check whether mitigation measures have been put in place. It has been implemented in countries such as Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Sudan and is currently being implemented in Jordan.

Environment Marker and Guidance Note

Sector-specific Tip Sheets developed for the application of the Environment Marker in Sudan:

Food Security and Livelihood (FSL)
Non Food Items and Emergency Shelter



Environment in Humanitarian Action eLearning

The 1.5 hour Environment in Humanitarian Action eLearning module provides humanitarian actors with information on how to effectively integrate environmental issues into humanitarian response and early recovery strategies. The training highlights the key opportunities, misconceptions and challenges for mainstreaming environmental issues into humanitarian action.

The course is available free of charge on the Environmental Emergencies Centre (EEC). The EEC hosts a series of online learning modules developed by the UN Environment/OCHA Joint Unit and partners on a range of environmental emergency preparedness and response topics.

You can access the learning modules through the EEC's Learning Centre where you will need to register. Registration is open to everyone.

"Environment and Humanitarian Action: Increasing Effectiveness, Sustainability and Accountability"

The study "Environment and Humanitarian Action: Increasing Effectiveness, Sustainability and Accountability" (2014), commissioned by the UN  Environment/OCHA Joint Unit with the support of the Government of Finland, examined the state of integration of environmental considerations in the global humanitarian system and defined collective action to improve the effectiveness, accountability and sustainability of humanitarian preparedness and response in the future.

The study found that there is still a critical lack of systematic mainstreaming of environment, which undermines the life-saving prerogative of humanitarian action. There is an urgent need to address this at global system, field and donor policy levels and recommendations of the study are based on these three tiers. Implementing these recommendations will both increase aid effectiveness and accountability and play a central role in a transformational shift towards a more anticipatory model of humanitarian response in the future.

Read the article on the main findings: "Shaping the future of aid effectiveness by mainstreaming environmental sustainability".

Key Contacts

UN Environment/OCHA Joint Unit
Emergency Services Branch, OCHA Geneva

Environment and Humanitarian Action (EHA) Network

The Environment and Humanitarian Action (EHA) Network is an informal network of like-minded practitioners, established in April 2013, and joined by the common goal to maximize the outcomes of humanitarian action. It aims to avoid, minimize, or mitigate environmental impacts of humanitarian action and to promote environmentally responsible humanitarian programming through collaboration and cooperation. It jointly identifies key issues involved in integrating environmental considerations and prioritizes joint actions for advocacy and capacity building. The network is coordinated by the UN Environment/OCHA Joint Unit (JEU) and holds bi-monthly teleconferences and one annual face-to-face meeting through which it shares progress and challenges and prepares actions to better integrate environment.  Its particular strength is its unique composition consisting of members from both environment and humanitarian communities as well as donors.