The toxic crimes project at EnPAx 2022

Our researchers, Freek Van der Vet, Emma Hakala and Stavros Pantazopoulos participated in the 2nd International Conference on Environmental Peacebuilding that took place in Geneva virtually from 1 to 4 February 2022.


The Second International Conference on Environmental Peacebuilding took place in Geneva virtually from 1 to 4 February 2022. The Environmental Peacebuilding Association® (EnPAx™) and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) convened the conference in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),  the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, the Geneva Water Hub, the Geneva Environment Network, and the PeaceNexus Foundation. The Conference featured five themes that draw attention to key environmental peacebuilding issues and their important interlinkages in the particular context of peace and conflict: Building the Evidence Base, Public Health, Business and Market, Rights and Justice, and Climate Change.

The four days programme included plenary sessions, an awards ceremony, breakout sessions, networking events, and training courses. The conference brought together researchers, practitioners, decision-makers, and others to examine diverse dimensions of environmental peacebuilding.  The agenda included 5 training sessions and 78 panels and roundtables, with 330+ experts from 60+ countries. 





Our researchers participated in two different sessions. Dr. Stavros Pantazopoulous, who is also co-chair of the Environmental Peacebuilding Law Interest Group, chaired the roundtable "Implementation of and Compliance with the International Law Protecting the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict [Law Interest Group]", which took place the 3 February 2022, 11:00:00 - 12:30:00 (Europe/Zurich). This session dealt with the lates developments in the legal framework protecting the environment in relation to armed conflicts, such as the 28 draft principles adopted by the UN International Law Commission (ILC) and the ICRC 2020 Updated Guidelines for Military Manuals, and debated the need for an alternative implementation vehicle that encourages and monitors states' compliance with this normative framework. This roundtable invited a wide range of experts to engage in a discussion on how the law can be better formulated, applied and adapted to foster a sustainable peace without compromising environmental protection: 

  • Stavros Pantazopoulos, Chair, University of Helsinki (Greece)

  • Britta Sjöstedt, Chair, Lund University (Sweden)

  • Marie Jacobsson, Presenter, Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Former ILC Special Rapporteur on Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict (Sweden)

  • Daniëlla Dam-de Jong, Presenter, Leiden University (Netherlands)

  • Elizabeth Hessami, Presenter, Johns Hopkins University (United States)

  • Mara Tignino, Presenter, Geneva Water Hub (Switzerland)

  • Marja Lehto, Presenter, Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ILC Special Rapporteur on Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict (Finland)

  • Doug Weir, Presenter, The Conflict and Environment Observatory (United Kingdom)


The next day, 4 February 2022, 09:00:00 - 10:30:00 (Europe/Zurich), Freek Van der Vet and Emma Hakala participated in the panel "Disinformation, Data Collection, and the Weaponization of Environmental Harm During Armed Conflict" presenting their work. This session discussed the challenges when gathering accurate evidence on conflict pollution during active conflicts due to ongoing violance, lack of access to sites, and the collapse of domestic monitoring. Studies on conflict pollution acknowledge these obstacles but often call for more technical data collection to push for policy solutions. Others argue that the urgency of human-made environmnetal hazards depends on who has the authority to define those risks and less on the available technological data. The panel went beyond the technological challenges of evidence collection to explore the political dimensions surrounding risk assessments in conflict zones and argue that the practice of environmental monitoring must overcome several emerging socio-political challenges: the growing amount of disinformation about environmental harm during armed conflict, the use of the environment as a bargaining chip, and the politics of prioritizing risks. The participants of the panel were: 

  • Annica Waleij, Chair, Swedish Defence Research Agency (Sweden)

  • Emma Hakala, Panelist, University of Helsinki (Finland)

    The First Casualty of War: Post-Conflict Environmental Assessments as an Instrument for Common Understanding in Politicized Settings

  • Margaryta Rymarenko, Panelist, Central European University (Austria)

    Environment as a Bargaining Leverage: The Issue of Water Supplies to Crimea and its Implications for Russian-Ukrainian Conflict

  • Freek van der Vet, Panelist, University of Helsinki (Finland)

    Toxic Floods, Porous Lands: Assessing Risk and Conflict Pollution in the Armed Conflict in Eastern Ukraine