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Last update: August 9, 2017

Summaries of the Work of the International Law Commission

Protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts

See also: Analytical Guide | Texts and Instruments

At its sixty-fifth session, in 2013, the International Law Commission decided to include the topic "Protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts" in its programme of work, on the basis of the recommendation of the Working Group on the long-term programme of work. The Commission decided to appoint Ms. Marie G. Jacobsson as Special Rapporteur for the topic.

At the sixty-sixth session in 2014, the Commission considered the preliminary report of the Special Rapporteur,1 which provided an introductory overview of phase I of the topic, namely the environmental rules and principles applicable to a potential armed conflict (“peacetime obligations”).

At the sixty-seventh session in 2015, the Commission had before it the second report of the Special Rapporteur,2 which, inter alia, identified and examined existing rules of armed conflict directly relevant to the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict. The report contained five draft principles and three draft preambular paragraphs. The Commission decided to refer the draft preambular paragraphs and the draft principles, as contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur, to the Drafting Committee, with the understanding that the provision on use of terms was referred for the purpose of facilitating discussions and was to be left pending by the Drafting Committee. The Commission subsequently took note of the draft introductory provisions and draft principles I-(x) to II-5, provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee.

At its sixty-eighth session, in 2016, the Commission had before it the third report of the Special Rapporteur,3 which focused on identifying rules of particular relevance to post-conflict situations, while also addressing some preventive issues to be undertaken in the pre-conflict phase. The report contained a proposal of three draft principles on preventive measures, five draft principles on the post-conflict phase and one draft principle on the rights of indigenous peoples.4 The Commission referred the draft principles to the Drafting Committee and referred back to the Drafting Committee the draft introductory provisions and draft principles it had taken note of during its sixty-seventh session to address some technical issues. Upon receipt of the reports of the Drafting Committee, the Commission (a) took note of draft principles 4, 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18, which had been provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee, and (b) provisionally adopted the draft principles which it had taken note of at its sixty-seventh session, together with commentaries thereto.5

At its sixty-ninth session, the Commission established a Working Group on the topic, chaired by Mr. Marcelo Vázquez-Bermúdez. The Working Group had before it the draft commentaries prepared by the Special Rapporteur, even though she was no longer with the Commission, on draft principles 4, 6 to 8, and 14 to 18 provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee at the sixty-eighth session of the Commission, and taken note of by the Commission at the same session. The Working Group focused its discussion on considering the way forward. Upon consideration of the oral report the Chairperson of the Working Group, the Commission decided to appoint Ms. Marja Lehto as Special Rapporteur.

The work of the Commission on the topic as described above has been proceeding in accordance with the successive resolutions adopted by the General Assembly under the item relating to the report of the International Law Commission.6

1 See document A/CN.4/674 and Corr.1.

2 See document A/CN.4/685.

3 See document A/CN.4/700.

4 Official Records of the General Assembly, Seventy-first Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/71/10), paras. 141 and 142.

5 Ibid., paras. 143–146 and 188–189.

6 General Assembly resolutions 68/112 of 16 December 2013; 69/118 of 10 December 2014; 70/236 of 23 December 2015; and 71/140 of 13 December 2016.