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Security and Environment

A colloquium organized by CERAP and IRIS Research Centres,

University of Paris 13, Sorbonne Paris Cité,

under the aegis of SFDE.

Environment is a set of natural (physical, chemical or biological) or artificial elements that surround a human being, an animal, a plant or a species.[1] Its components are mainly air, water, soil, natural resources, flora, fauna and landscapes. Security is defined as a situation in which someone or something is not exposed to any danger or any risk, particularly of aggression or deterioration.[2] Deployed at all levels (local, national, international), the concept of security first contributed to the setting up of preventive policies on the part of nation states confronted with the threat of war, terrorism, etc. We now know that the effects of environmental changes, which are sometimes irreversible, render fragile ecosystems and human societies that depend on them. Environment, as a set of natural and artificial elements that shape human life, is, therefore, subject to significant and unexpected changes some aspects of which constitute security issues. Security and environment are closely linked, starting with the mutual risks caused by environment with regard to installations or by installations with regard to environment. Born in the 70s, environmental security combines the two notions by conveying the idea of ​​a double movement in which environment may cause societal crises and vice versa i.e., human activity can produce environmental crises. The relationship between security and environment are multiple, indeed even interdependent.

If human societies have acquired and are now developing capacities for response and unprecedented adaptation to crises, the world of the early twenty-first century is characterized by a high degree of vulnerability to global environmental change, to geopolitical issues of energy or the many forms of crisis in accessing resources, and ultimately to human security issues. These issues are interpreted at the local, national, regional and international levels and pose challenging questions to many academic disciplines, especially law.

It is clear that the relationship between environmental stress and security is becoming the subject of growing attention. Understanding the mechanisms, identifying risk and decision-making are all issues that are thought provoking. For example, international institutions have, over the past years, linked environmental constraints and security risks. While implementing its « environmental initiative, » the UN Security Council declared in 1992 that « The absence of war and military conflicts amongst States does not in itself ensure international peace and security. The non-military sources of instability in the economic, social, humanitarian and ecological fields have become threats to peace and security. »

If the connection between « security and environment, » or the concept of « environmental security » has been developed in scholarly literature in the field of Political Sciences in the US, it is interesting to further extend these questions through the prism of legal sciences, particularly within the Francophone community, which has not so far tackled the question head on. Law is one of the tools of human societies. How is it developed, mobilized, applied, indeed even instrumentalized in order to prevent or put an end to environmental and social crises? The aim of this symposium is to launch new lines of thought, taking the cue from existing work.

[1] As defined by the Larousse Dictionary.

[2] Ibid.


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