ECOCIDE AT THE UN.. The fast-growing call to criminalize mass destruction of nature – ecocide – is now beginning to be heard in the halls of the United Nations.

Ecocide write in their latest update

The fast-growing call to criminalize ecocide is now beginning to be heard in the halls of the United Nations. At the resumed session of the UN’s 5th Environment Assembly in Nairobi this month (“UNEA 5.2”), it surfaced in a number of ways.

High level speeches

Two key speeches recalled the first UN Environment conference of 1972 when Prime Minister of Sweden Olof Palme first used the word ecocide to refer to serious destruction of nature, and called for it to be addressed at the international level.  UNEA President, Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment Mr. Espen Barth Eide, in his opening remarks recalled Palme speaking “about the limits to what our environment can tolerate and about the perils of ecocide.”

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, in her closing remarks for the special session marking UNEP@50, also quoted Palme*, remarking “I wish [his] words didn’t carry the same weight today as they did fifty years ago. But they do.”  They also highlight that destruction of nature is a “crime against peace”, as the Rome Statute crimes are sometimes known.

Youth Environment Assembly

The YEA, held immediately before the main Environment Assembly, resulted in a strong call for an international crime of ecocide from the Stockholm+50 Youth Task Force.  The YTF consists of 50 young people from around the world, and three global consultations have shaped the outcome of their policy paper (final version pending). The first demand made by the paper was for criminalisation of ecocide:

  1. Provide constitutional and other legal guarantees of the right to a healthy and sustainable environment to enable victims of climate change to take polluters to court over crimes such as ecocide. More specifically, criminalizing large-scale environmental destruction by including ecocide in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Global Major Groups & Stakeholders Forum

The Joint Statement of the GMGSF which was submitted to the Environment Assembly specifically refers to ecocide into its preamble, acknowledging that “adding ecocide as the fifth crime to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court would have a strong preventive effect on destructive actions.”

Call to action from UNEP@50:

In the words of Inger Andersen:

“So, as we stand here, let us all heed the words of Olof Palme, one of the giants who helped to create UNEP. Let us carry these words with us – in our minds, our hearts, our consciences. Let us take them into the world and act on them so that we can, one day soon, live together as one people, on one planet, in peace with nature and each other.”

*Olof Palme, 1972: “The immense destruction brought about by indiscriminate bombing, by large-scale use of bulldozers and herbicide is an outrage sometimes described as ecocide, which requires urgent international attention. We know that work for disarmament and peace must be viewed in a long perspective. It is of paramount importance, however, that ecological warfare cease immediately.”