The work of the Protection Cluster aims at taking action to keep people safe from violence, coercion and deliberate deprivation. Humanitarian actors need to take steps to understand and mitigate associated risks. Protection of affected people in the humanitarian space is guided by the following four commonly agreed upon principles:
Enhance the safety, dignity and rights of people, and avoid exposing them to harm.
Ensure people’s access to assistance according to need and without discrimination.
Assist people to recover from the physical and psychological effects of threatened or actual violence, coercion and deliberate deprivation.
Help people claim their rights.1
Protection principle 1 encompasses the environment in its objective to avoid exposing people to harm. Humanitarian activities can have unintended impacts on the environment that lead to people’s safety, dignity and rights being compromised, whether from an individual or group perspective.
The community may have a low self-sufficiency as a result of environmental degradation. This could include the vulnerability of socially excluded groups such as LGBTQ and other vulnerable groups, which may find their access to scarce resources like clean water or energy compromised2
Deforestation caused by increased need for shelter material or over use of water resources could result in women and children having to travel further to collect firewood or water, resulting in higher risk of exposure for these vulnerable groups
Discriminatory social norms may lead to certain groups not having access to information or being excluded from decision-making processes, which in turn may compromise their access to environmental services such as water.
Dignity – forcing people to move or to take unsafe and/or culturally inappropriate lodging due to environmental stresses.
Rights – people have a right to clean water and an adequate standard of living, where environmental stresses may compromise these rights.
The degree of protection for affected people is directly related to the extent humanitarian actors are able to address above-mentioned key concerns in programming and implementation. If these links are overseen, patterns might be re-enforced (e.g. increased use of fuelwood and water) which not only increase environmental stresses but also increase the risk to the population. Consequently, a thorough analysis of the links between environmental factors and protection is needed. Answering the following question might help as first step to include protection and environment into programming and implementation:
What do you see as key protection risks – including things that may not be obvious – that you feel should be particularly highlighted?
Are there any protection principles related to environment that inform your sector’s activities that you feel should be emphasised?
What do you feel should be underscored in terms of how protection and environment be integrated into your sector’s activities?
In times of increasing effects of climate change, the above-mentioned patterns are most likely to further increase. It is therefore imperative for actors engaged in humanitarian operations at all levels to be aware of the linkages and take them into account in their programming and implementation activities.
UN Environment: Quick guides on how humanitarian action can minimize environmental impacts
The 'Quick guides' contain key guidance on environmental issues relevant to six sectors of Food Security and Agriculture Sector, Basic Needs Sector, Health Sector, Education Sector, Protection Sector and Livelihood Sector of humanitarian response to population displacement. They underscore the opportunities to minimize negative environmental impacts during humanitarian action.
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Evidence on Demand, Mainstreaming Environment into Humanitarian Interventions A Synopsis of Key Organizations, Literature and Experience
This study published by Evidence on Demand reviews a selection of materials on the environment and humanitarian interventions, including disasters and conflict. It considers various actors in the field of environment and humanitarian response, as well as existing knowledge development for managing environmental concerns during humanitarian interventions…
Evidence on Demand, Mainstreaming Environment and Climate Change into Humanitarian Action
This study, published by Evidence on Demand provides an overview of the key reasons that environmental and climate change issues are relevant in the context of humanitarian action.
Gender-based violence and environment
This UN Environment graphic overview highlights the links between gender-based violence and environment…
Operational Guidelines and Field Manual on Human Rights Protection in Situations of Natural Disaster
These guidelines help people in the field to understand the human rights dimensions of their work in disaster response while giving them practical examples and operational steps about how some of these seemingly abstract concepts may be implemented.
IASC Operational Guidelines on the Protection of Persons in Natural Disasters
The IASC Guidelines promote a rights-based approach in situations of natural disasters by laying out operational guidelines for humanitarian responders…
Mapping the Green Economy: A Case of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Brazil
This latest report on Green Jobs maps the green economy in Brazil, supporting the development of strategies that UNHCR can adopt to further the labour integration of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the country. The study aims at quantifying and locating green jobs in Brazil, understanding the labour situation…
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Evaluating Climate Vulnerability in Humanitarian Hotspots
This study, conducted in 2019, focuses on the definition of climate vulnerability with operational and political perspectives and delivers guidelines for assessing climate vulnerability in long-term crises, such as in conflict-affected countries and recurrent disaster-prone areas. The research draws on an extensive academic literature review in the fields of biology,…
Reducing environmental impact in humanitarian response – Sphere Thematic Sheet
Sphere recently published a new resource that offers hands-on guidance to practitioners looking to consider environmental issues in their humanitarian programmes. It is the first in a series of thematic sheets that will discuss some of the core issues in humanitarian response. [caption id="attachment_2417" align="aligncenter" width="633"] Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN[/caption]…
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Protection in Natural Disasters
The Brookings Bern Project on Internal Displacement paper discusses differences and similarities in the protection of people affected by natural disasters and by conflict, delineates some of the obstacles to effective protection, and describes a framework for protection response, the Inter Agency Standing Committee's Operational Guidelines on Human Rights in…
WEDO: Gender and Biodiversity
Women's Environment and Development Organization study on the relationship between Gender and Biodiversity, also relevant for protection cluster…
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Age, Gender and Diversity in UNHCR operations
How UNHCR covers Age, Gender and Diversity. Provides valuable follow up information on topics indirectly related to environmental factors.
2018 JRP for Rohingya Humanitarian Crises
The Rohingya Humanitarian Crises highlights the close link between protection and environmental factors. The chapter on protection calls for protection planning that takes into account environmental factors.
IAEA Safety Standard: Preparedness and Response for a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency
This safety requirements publications by IAEA aims to strengthen preparedness and response for nuclear or radiological emergencies.