PAX has won the prestigious Green Star Award for responding to environmental crises resulting from armed conflict. The Green Star Award was established by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), UN Environment (UNEP) and the Green Cross and is presented every other year to three organisations for preparing for and responding to environmental emergencies. PAX won the category Response for leadership in the protection of civilians from environmental pollution during war and armed conflict and commitment to building peace with justice.
Wim Zwijnenburg accepted the award on behalf of PAX during a ceremony Tuesday evening in Nairobi, Kenya. “I witnessed with my own eyes the enormous impact war had on the environment in Iraq,” says Zwijnenburg, “and I say how little was being done to highlight the consequences these toxic war remnants were having, and how little help the affected communities were getting. This motivated me to engage with various humanitarian organisations and seek opportunities to improve the response needed to support people who were affected.”
PAX has played a pioneering role in highlighting environmental damage in areas under conflict. Both through original, innovative research, and as a facilitator and catalyst, PAX has brought together UN agencies and humanitarian organisations working on helping communities effected by environmental hazards caused by military activities in and outside conflicts. For instance, by using open-source information research and reaching out to various actors in the field, PAX contributed to a better understanding of the various environmental risks for communities in Iraq in the wake of the conflict, as burning oil wells blackened the skies and cities and towns were reduced to rubble.
PAX, together with its long-standing partner the Toxic Remnants of War Project, has been working on responding to environmental damage during conflict since 2011, and has embraced new methods of monitoring what happens on the ground in areas that can be hard to get to. “Modern technologies such as satellite analysis and open-source information offer a plethora of opportunities to start identifying the environmental health risks associated with toxic remnants of war,” says PAX programme leader Zwijnenburg. “This data can help building faster and more efficient response to affected communities and ensure proper remediation and clean-up work is undertaken to minimise and prevent exposure to conflict-related pollution.”
Green Star Awards
The Green Star Award is presented every other year to three organisations for preparing for and responding to environmental emergencies. The other recipients this year include the Maestros Leadership Team from Malawi, in the category Prevention and Preparedness, and Cooperación Comunitaria from Mexico in the category Environment and Humanitarian Action.