Given the urgency and seriousness of the climate and environment crises, the REH aims to improve understanding and awareness of these issues among French-speaking humanitarian and development actors, and help them adopt more environmentally sustainable practices.
The Réseau Environnement Humanitaire (REH) was created in 2012 due to a collective need to discuss environmental issues and improve the way these are addressed in humanitarian action.
The network has been facilitated by Groupe URD since its creation, and was initially made up of individuals working in the humanitarian sector who wanted their organisations and partners
to take environmental concerns into account more.
The REH’s foundations were laid during an initial period of development (2012-2014). This involved assessing the progress made by each organisation, as well as their needs and difficulties. Thematic meetings were held, which gave rise to technical briefing notes and articles. The members of the network during this launch phase were: Action contre la Faim, the French Red Cross, ICRC, Médecins du Monde, Médecins Sans Frontières Suisse, UNDP, Solidarités International, Terre des Hommes Lausanne, Triangle Génération Humanitaire, the UNEP/OCHA Joint Environment Unit and Groupe URD.
Over the period 2015-2020, the network grew and its members became more diversified. A Groupe URD member of staff was given the role of facilitating the network. These developments took place as environmental issues, and particularly climate change, began to receive increased attention internationally, and NGOs started to join the conversation. Due to their growing environmental awareness, a large number of NGOs have made commitments to reduce their environmental footprint and to take environmental issues into account in their programmes, notably through the Statement of Commitment on Climate by Humanitarian Organisations signed at the French National Humanitarian Conference in December 2020.
2021 marked the beginning of a new period for the REH, which now provides its member NGOs with operational support.
Members want the network to be able to help them concretely to reduce their environmental footprint, starting with their carbon footprint. As a result, the organisation of the network has had to be revised and it has adopted a more formal form of governance so that it can facilitate concrete initiatives by its members while maintaining its initial activities of sharing and disseminating knowledge.
With input from several members of the network, a form of governance based on consensus decision-making was adopted in February 2022. This establishes the new way that the network is organised, as explained in the ‘Organisation’ section.
Created in April 2012, the aim of the Humanitarian Environment Network (REH) is to help its members,
and the international aid sector in general, to integrate environmental considerations into their activities.
To ensure that environmental issues are taken into account more effectively, it has three objectives:
Taking environmental issues into account in humanitarian action helps to reduce risks and factors that contribute to conflict and helps to increase resilience. Humanitarian crises, but also humanitarian responses, can have a significant negative impact on the environment. A degraded environment can compromise the chances of recovery and reconstruction, and can create future risks. The environment therefore needs to be taken into account as part of a ‘Do No Harm’ approach. A preserved environment contributes to stability and good health and is a source of means of subsistence, and it helps to avoid the tensions caused by environmental degradation in situations where resources are scarce.
Since February 2022, The REH is made up of three types of interdependent bodies: the Forum, the Working Groups (WG) and the Steering Committee (COPIL).
The Forum is where network members exchange ideas, engage in debate and share information and experiences. As such, it actively contributes to collective reflection, particularly related to the network’s strategy and advocacy.
The Forum meets at least four times a year on specific themes, by videoconference or in person. Individuals or organisations that are not members of the REH can also be invited by the Forum Secretariat to take part in Forum meetings.
Groupe URD is responsible for facilitating and coordinating the Forum.
The COPIL is the decision-making body of the REH. It ratifies and monitors the REH’s strategy, draws up joint position statements, validates the creation/closure of WGs proposed by members, ensures that relevant information circulates between members and between WGs, encourages learning between members and between WGs, represents the REH in certain bodies and is responsible for advocacy and fund-raising.
The COPIL is made up of six operational NGOs (Action Contre la Faim, Care France, Croix-Rouge française, Humanité & Inclusion, Médecins du Monde and Solidarités International) and one think tank (Groupe URD) elected by the REH members. Organisations’ level of involvement within the REH on issues of reducing the environmental impact of aid and more generally on the links between humanitarian aid and the environment.
The COPIL meets once a trimester, and more often if necessary. Groupe URD facilitates the COPIL and acts as its Secretariat.
Each Working Group corresponds to a workspace, the fruit of the crystallisation of exchanges around a specific theme. It is run by members who want to make operational or strategic progress on a specific environmental issue.
For a number of years now, there has been growing awareness among humanitarian actors of the potential negative impacts of their operations, and of crises themselves, on the natural environment. These impacts can be caused as much by the implementation of programmes as by logistical aspects both at headquarters and internationally.
In December 2020, a collectively elaborated statement of commitment on the climate was produced and presented at the 5th French National Humanitarian Conference. Via this text, 10 NGOs committed themselves to reducing their emissions by 50% by 2030. Following this declaration, a working group on carbon made up of these 10 NGOs was established at the beginning of 2021. The first step was to measure the greenhouse gas emissions of their activities and to establish coherent carbon accounting within the humanitarian sector. A study was then carried out during the first semester of 2022 to consider a joint methodology or tool to measure greenhouse gases and establish a database of sources of emissions adapted to the humanitarian sector and its related field activities.
Based on the results of their initial carbon footprint, the NGOs will be able to implement targeted measures to reduce the impact of their activities, establish action plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and support innovative low-carbon projects.
Sharing experiences and developing collective tools is the main activity of this working group which focuses on specific operational issues.
If you are interested in joining this group, contact the group leader: email@example.com
Based on discussion and the sharing of experiences, this working group aims to provide member organisations with support to make their projects more environmentally friendly by using environmental assessment tools (particularly NEAT+, but also CEDRIG, EST, OIE, etc.).
NEAT+, which has been developed by the Joint Environment Unit (JEU) since 2017, is a tool that can be used to rapidly assess environmental risks. It helps to understand an environmental context, and the potential environmental impacts of projects. It aims to make humanitarian programmes greener, and is supposed to be quick and simple to use as it does not require any specific environmental expertise. This tool is still under development. It has rural and urban versions and includes modules on shelter, WASH, food security and livelihoods. Further modules are due to be developed, such as on health and cash and voucher assistance. It is currently being tested by numerous humanitarian organisations around the world.
Certain donors are starting to make the use of environmental assessments a contractual obligation (such as DG ECHO). Several members of the REH therefore felt that it was necessary to create a specific working group on this topic.
If you are interested in joining this group, contact the group leader: firstname.lastname@example.org
Waste is an issue of growing concern in humanitarian and development contexts as it is a major source of water, soil and air pollution and can compromise the principle of ‘Do No Harm’.
Through discussions and the sharing of experiences, this working group aims to help member organisations improve the way that waste is taken into account and managed in their projects. In order to tackle this issue both upstream (e.g. reducing packaging) and downstream (improving recycling, for example), cooperation is required between a large number of actors. The working group therefore aims to coordinate suppliers, buyers, logistics and users in order to take waste into account as well as possible.
If you are interested in joining this group, contact the group leader: dechets@environnementhuma
The issue of the supply chain in humanitarian and development contexts has become increasingly important in recent years. The Carbon working group has established average greenhouse gas emissions linked to purchasing to be between 40% and 70% of emissions. It is therefore very important to decarbonise our purchasing and supply chain (climate vision), and also to integrate the three dimensions of Sustainable Development (socio-economic, environmental and societal) more fully into our activities.
Through discussions and the sharing of experiences, this working group aims to help member organisations to integrate the concepts of responsible and sustainable purchasing into the supply chain.
The group was created due to the desire of the following NGOs to develop shared purchasing criteria: Oxfam Intermon, Humanité et Inclusion, Alima, MSF Belgique, Action Contre la Faim and Bioforce. The group has now been formally established, has been integrated into the REH and is open to new members.
If you are interested, contact: email@example.com
The Humanitarian Environment Network is made up of more than 200 members, who are either individuals or organisations. There are around ten ‘active’ members who are part of the Steering Committee (COPIL) and who are more involved in the network’s decisions and orientation. Although we won’t list every member’s name here, we do list the NGO members, whose logos are displayed below.