Why do disasters and conflicts matter?

In Disasters & conflicts

Since the beginning of this century, the world has witnessed more than 2,500 disasters and 40 major conflicts.

These tragic events – which have affected more than two billion people – destroy infrastructure, displace populations, and fundamentally undermine human security. They also compound poverty and tear apart the fabric of sustainable development.

UN Environment is working around the world to respond to natural disasters, industrial accidents, and human-induced crises. In the past two decades, we have supported dozens of crisis-affected countries and territories, including Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq and Sierra Leone.

We provide innovative and efficient environmental solutions that help countries respond to crises and prepare for future emergencies. We also work to minimize the harmful effects of environmental degradation on human well-being.

Our work on disasters and conflicts cuts across several key entities:

Crisis Management Branch

The Crisis Management Branch has responded to crisis situations in more than 40 countries since 1999, delivering high-quality environmental expertise to national governments and partners in the UN family. The Branch conducts field-based assessments, works to reduce the risk of disaster, and promotes environmental cooperation for peacebuilding, among other activities.

Joint Environment Unit

The Joint Environment Unit coordinates international emergency response to acute environmental risks caused by conflicts, natural disasters and industrial accidents. The Unit is a joint endeavour between UN Environment the UN Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which serves as the Unit’s host.

Environment and Security Initiative

UN Environment hosts the Environment and Security (ENVSEC) Initiative, which performs three key functions: assessing environment and security risks, developing capacities and strengthening institutions for regional cooperation, and integrating environment and security into international and national policy-making. ENVSEC operates in Central Asia, the South Caucasus, and Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.

The Programme on Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies on a Local Level

The Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies on a Local Level (APELL) Programme has been working since 1986 to reduce industrial risks, raise awareness, and build capacity to respond to emergencies. The programme engages communities in natural and hazard-prone areas, helping them prepare for and mitigate the environmental risks of industrial accidents.

The Flexible Framework Initiative

The Flexible Framework Initiative for Addressing Chemical Accident Prevention and Preparedness helps countries – particularly those with rapidly industrializing economies – prepare for and prevent chemical accidents. UN Environment leads the Initiative, whose partners include governments, universities, other UN bodies, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.


The Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit (JEU) together with its partners develops introductory and advanced trainings on a variety of environmental emergency preparedness and response topics.

Knowledge platform

An environmental peacebuilding knowledge platform has been built and is being used by visitors from 185 countries. It consistently receives 5,000-8,000 page views per month, and now contains over 4,300 documents and resources. The knowledge platform supports a virtual Community of Practice with over 3,000 people from 90 countries that have signed up to a regular Environmental Peacebuilding Update.

In Disasters & conflicts