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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 have multiple benefits and provide 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.

     2015 Environmental Emergencies Forum

The 2015 Environmental Emergencies Forum had been 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, visit our website

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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.

Please note that to access the course you are required to register, which is at no cost and is granted instanly.

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Launch of the Environment and Humanitarian Action Study

The study "Environment and Humanitarian Action: Increasing Effectiveness, Sustainability and Accountability", commissioned by the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit with the support of the Government of Finland, examined the current 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"

The study was officially launched at an ECOSOC side event in New York on 23 June 2014. Listen to the keynote speakers at the following links.

The study and its recommendations were also presented at an IASC event in Geneva on 3 September 2014. The powerpoint presentations can be found here.

Key Contacts

OCHA Environmental Emergencies Section (Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit)

Environment into Humanitarian Action Reference Group

The Environment in Humanitarian Action (EHA) Reference Group is an informal advocacy group, established in April 2013, which jointly identifies key issues involved in integrating environment; prioritizes joint actions for advocacy and capacity building on environmental emergencies.

The reference group meets every two months, shares progress and challenges and prepares actions to better integrate EHA.

Presently, the reference group members are UNEP, UNHCR, UNDP/BCPR, WWF, ICRC, Groupe URD, Interaction, ProAct Network, MSB and FOI and JEU.

The JEU, as chair of the Reference Group, is working with its partners on a practical, pragmatic and easy-to-understand framework for action that can be systematically applied to ensure EHA.

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