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. Between 2012 and 2015, Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross jointly consulted States on ways and means of strengthening the application of international humanitarian law.
The protective legal framework established by international humanitarian law (IHL) is by and large adequate. The main challenge now is to strengthen respect for this body of law and to prevent the risk of erosion of its credibility.
Between 2012 and April 2015, Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) undertook to consult States on possible means to strengthen the application of IHL and reinforce dialogue on IHL issues among States. This initiative was based on Resolution 1 of the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent 2011.
In the course of the consultations, it was largely acknowledged that existing IHL compliance mechanisms are inadequate in light of the nature and complexity of contemporary armed conflicts. It was also recognized that there is an institutional vacuum in the area of IHL implementation. The Geneva Conventions lack a Conference of States Parties or a similar institutional forum, in which States can discuss the application of IHL and current and emerging challenges to compliance with it. Most States therefore expressed their support for the establishment of a regular Meeting of States on IHL.
Switzerland and the ICRC submitted various options and recommendations in a concluding report to the members of the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent of December 2015. On this basis, the International Conference decided to launch an intergovernmental process to find an agreement among States on the functions and features of a forum of States for IHL and to find ways of making better use of the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and regional forums to enhance the application of IHL.