Armed conflicts cause enormous human suffering, especially among the affected civilian populations. One of the greatest humanitarian challenges is to improve respect for international humanitarian law. In 2012, Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross launched a diplomatic consultation process aimed at strengthening compliance mechanisms of international humanitarian law.
The protective legal framework established by international humanitarian law is by and large adequate. The main challenge now is to strengthen respect for this body of law and to prevent the gradual erosion of its credibility.
For this reason, between 2012 and April 2015, Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have conducted a major consultation process open to all States Parties to the Geneva Conventions with the aim of identifying ways to strengthen compliance with international humanitarian law. This initiative is based on Resolution 1 adopted at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which took place in Geneva in 2011.
In the context of this initiative, four principal consultation meetings and several preparatory meetings have been held in Geneva.
In the course of those consultations, participating states have carried out analyses on why the mechanisms set out in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols are not effective and have examined other mechanisms that could be developed.
A large majority of participating States has expressed support for a reinforced compliance mechanism for international humanitarian law. The new mechanism could initially be composed of the following elements:
- A regular Meeting of States (convening annually, for example) that would provide the institutional framework for the other elements of the mechanism
- Thematic discussions on problems and challenges relating to implementation of international humanitarian law (such debates should be non-contextual, that is, without debating specific country situations)
- Periodic reporting on compliance with international humanitarian law at the national level
There is, furthermore, broad agreement that this mechanism should promote constructive dialogue, the exchange of “good practices”, as well as the identification of needs for technical assistance and cooperation.