FEATURE: ‘Respect Rules of War’– leaders urged to recommit to protecting civilians at UN World Humanitarian Summit
This question will be guiding discussions at the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit
(WHS), taking place on 23 and 24 May in Istanbul, Turkey. More than 125 leaders are meeting to address some of the globe’s most pressing issues, with the urgent goal of alleviating the suffering of millions of people.
According to the UN, the brutality of today’s armed conflicts and the lack of respect for the fundamental rules of international humanitarian law “threaten to unravel 150 years of achievements and cause a regression to an era of war without limits.”
In Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Agenda for Humanity, a guiding document for the Summit in which he calls for people’s safety, dignity and right to thrive, world leaders are being asked to commit to five core responsibilities, including the respect of rules of war, core responsibility #2.
The UN chief is insisting that UN Member States seize the opportunity at WHS to recommit to protecting civilians by respecting the rules that they have already agreed upon.
In the following audio slide show, Hannah Tonkin, who works for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), describes what happens when States don’t respect these laws.
The UN estimates that an appalling 92 per cent of people killed or injured by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas are civilians. In 2014, 80 per cent of recorded landmine and explosive remnant of war casualties were civilian, with an incidence rate of 10 casualties per day, most of them children.
“Flouting the most basic rules governing the conduct of war has become contagious, creating further risks that their application will be reinterpreted and blurred,” Mr. Ban warned in the Agenda.
“When States disrespect or undermine international humanitarian and human rights law, including through expansive interpretations, other States and non-State actors regard it as an invitation to do the same,” he added.
OCHA is underlining that core responsibility #2 is not about creating new obligations or restating the obligations that already exist – it is about taking concrete action to enhance compliance with the obligations that already exist, and which are in place to protect humanity.