Joint initiative by Switzerland and the ICRC on strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law

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.

Resolution 1 (PDF, Number of pages 4, 145.2 kB)

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.

Next steps

A fourth Meeting of States took place in April 2015 in Geneva and concluded the consultation process. On the basis of the results of the consultation process, Switzerland and the ICRC submitted a concluding report containing various options and recommendations to the members of the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

On this basis, the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which will take place in December 2015, will decide on how to take them forward.

Documents

ABC of International Humanitarian Law (PDF, Number of pages 48, 1.2 MB, English)

Fact Sheet Initiative on Strengthening Compliance with International Humanitarian Law (PDF, Number of pages 2, 100.8 kB, English)

Fourth Meeting of States on Strengthening Compliance with IHL, April 2015

Chairs’ Conclusions, Fourth Meeting of States 2015 (PDF, Number of pages 15, 271.6 kB, English)

Opening Speech of Federal Councillor Mr Didier Burkhalter, Fourth Meeting of States 2015 (PDF, Number of pages 6, 264.4 kB, English)

Opening Speech of the President of the ICRC Mr Peter Maurer, Fourth Meeting of States 2015 (PDF, Number of pages 8, 242.1 kB, English)

Background Document, Fourth Meeting of States 2015 (PDF, Number of pages 48, 899.8 kB, English)

Preparatory Discussion of December 2014

Chairs’ Conclusions, December 2014 (PDF, Number of pages 15, 287.9 kB, English)

Background Document, December 2014 (PDF, Number of pages 46, 589.0 kB, English)

Third Meeting of States on Strengthening Compliance with IHL, June 2014

Chairs’ Conclusions, Third Meeting of States 2014 (PDF, Number of pages 16, 261.8 kB)

Opening Speech of the President of the Swiss Confederation Mr Didier Burkhalter, Third Meeting of States 2014 (PDF, Number of pages 10, 329.1 kB, English)

Discours d’ouverture du président de la Confédération M. Didier Burkhalter, Third Meeting of States 2014 (PDF, Number of pages 11, 329.4 kB, French)

Opening Speech of the President of the ICRC Mr Peter Maurer, Third Meeting of States (PDF, Number of pages 4, 166.9 kB, English)

Background Document, Third Meeting of States 2014 (PDF, Number of pages 21, 232.5 kB, English)

Preparatory Discussion of April 2014

Chairs’ Conclusions, April 2014 (PDF, Number of pages 13, 243.6 kB, English)

Background Document, April 2014 (PDF, Number of pages 42, 501.0 kB, English)

Preparatory Discussion of December 2013

Chairs’ Conclusions, December 2013 (PDF, Number of pages 50, 186.3 kB, English)

Background Document, December 2013 (PDF, 746.6 kB, English)

Second Meeting of States on Strengthening Compliance with IHL,
June 2013

Chairs’ Conclusions, Second Meeting of States 2013 (PDF, Number of pages 3, 117.0 kB)

Opening speech of the Federal Councillor Mr Didier Burkhalter, Second Meeting of States 2013 (PDF, 85.3 kB)

Discours d’ouverture du Conseiller fédéral M. Didier Burkhalter, Second Meeting of States 2013 (fr) (PDF, Number of pages 10, 78.1 kB, French)

Opening Speech of the President of the ICRC Mr Peter Maurer, Second Meeting of States 2013 (PDF, 49.4 kB)

Background Document, Second Meeting of States 2013 (PDF, Number of pages 51, 711.4 kB, English)

Discussion with a group of States, April 2013

Chairs’ Conclusions, April 2013 (PDF, 47.4 kB)

Background Document, April 2013 (PDF, 534.1 kB)

Discussion with a group of States, November 2012

Chairs’ Conclusions, November 2012 (PDF, Number of pages 18, 39.3 kB, English)

Background Document, November 2012 (PDF, 132.2 kB, English)

Initial Meeting of States on Strengthening Compliance with IHL, July 2012

Chairs’ Conclusions, Initial Meeting of States 2012 (PDF, Number of pages 3, 40.3 kB, English)

Background Document, Initial Meeting of States 2012 (PDF, 126.5 kB, English)