Strengthening respect for IHL

Armed conflicts cause enormous human suffering, especially among civilian populations. One of the greatest humanitarian challenges today is to improve implementation of international humanitarian law. On the basis of a resolution of the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent of December 2015, Switzerland and the ICRC are jointly facilitating an intergovernmental process with the aim of strengthening respect for international humanitarian law.

International humanitarian law (IHL) has evolved considerably since the adoption of the first Geneva Convention in 1864. It has successively been developed and adjusted to address new methods and means of warfare. The protection of civilian populations and all persons who do not or no longer participate in hostilities has gradually been strengthened. The existing protective legal framework established under international humanitarian law is by and large adequate.  Nowadays, the main challenge is to improve respect for this body of law and to prevent the risk of gradual weakening of its credibility. In this context, it should be pointed out that the Geneva Conventions of 1949 are an exception among international treaties in that they do not provide states with an opportunity to meet on a regular basis to discuss and exchange experiences on ways of enhancing their implementation. 

The 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent of December 2015 adopted by consensus resolution 2 entitled “Strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law”, reaffirming the imperative need to improve compliance with IHL. All states committed to engage in an intergovernmental process to find agreement on functions and features of a potential forum of States on IHL. They also committed to finding ways to make better use of the quadrennial International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and regional forums in order to enhance the implementation of this body of law. Switzerland and the ICRC are jointly facilitating this process.