Humanitarian


The Re-affirmation of Humanitarian International Law

BY TRANSCEND MEMBERS

, 9 January 2017

Rene Wadlow - TRANSCEND Media Service

6 Jan 2017 - Current
armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria-Iraq-ISIS-Turkey, Libya,
Somalia and elsewhere have led to repeated and conscious violations of
humanitarian international law such as attacks on medical facilities and
personnel, killing of prisoners-of-war, the taking and killing of
hostages, the use of civilians as "human shields" and torture.

At
this stage, there is a pressing need to reflect upon what actions
should be taken to implement humanitarian international law in response
to increased challenges. We would like to stress the need for a United
Nations-led conference on the re-affirmation of humanitarian
international law stressing its application to non-State parties. 
Non-State actors such as ISIS or the Afghan Taliban, are increasingly
involved in armed conflicts but were largely not envisaged when
humanitarian international law was  being drawn up. The, the conference
would highlight the need to apply humanitarian international law both to
States and to non-State actors. (1)

Such a conference would bring together into a coherent synthesis the four avenues of humanitarian international law: (2)

  1. The Geneva Conventions - Red Cross-mandated treaties;
  2. The
    Hague Convention traditions dealing with prohibited weapons,
    highlighting recent treaties such as those on land mines and cluster
    munitions;
  3. Human rights conventions and standards, valid at all times but especially violated in times of armed conflicts;
  4. The
    protection of sites and monuments which have been designated by UNESCO
    as part of the cultural heritage of humanity, highlighting the August
    2016 decision of the International Criminal Court on the destruction of
    Sufi shrines in northern Mali. (3)

Such
a re-affirmation of humanitarian international law should be followed
by efforts to influence public consciousness of the provisions and
spirit of humanitarian international law. This can be done, in part, by
the creation of teaching manuals for different audiences and action
guides. (4)

I
would cite a precedent for this re-affirmation of humanitarian
international law from personal experience. During the Nigeria-Biafra
civil war, I was part of a working group created by the International
Committee of the Red Cross to respond adequately to the challenges of
this conflict which was the first African armed conflict that did not
involve a colonial power.  The blocking of food flows to Biafra and thus
starvation as a tool of war was stressed in our work. (5)

One
conclusion of the working group was the need to re-affirm the Geneva
Conventions and especially to have them more widely known in Africa by
writing Africa-focused teaching manuals. Thus, as at the time I was
professor and Director of Research of the Graduate Institute of
Development Studies, Geneva, I collaborated with Professor Jiri Toman,
Director of the Institut Henri Dunant on the  creation of such a manual
to be used in Africa. Today, such culturally-sensitive manuals could be
developed to explain humanitarian international law.

Such
a re-affirmation conference would be welcomed by civil society
organizations related to relief, refugees, human rights and conflict
resolution. A certain number of these organizations have already called
attention to violations and the need for international action.

NOTES:

1) see Andrew Clapham. Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Actors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)

2) see Sydney D. Bailey. Prohibitions and Restraints in War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972)

3) see Rene Wadlow "Guilty Plea in Cultural Destruction Case" Peace Magazine (Canada) Oct-Dec 2016

4) see Jacques Freymond. Guerres, Révolutions, Croix-Rouge (Geneva: Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1976) and Thierry Hentsch. Face au blocus. La Coix Rouge internationale dans le Nigéria en guerre (Geneva: Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1973)

5) see as a good example of an action guide Paul Bonard. Les Modes d'Action des Acteurs Humanitaires. Critères d'une Complémentarité Operationelle (Geneva, CICR, no date given)

__________________________________________

René Wadlow, is president and a U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment


Battle for Fallujah: Protests Needed against Violations of Humanitarian Law

Rene Wadlow - 

    12 June 2016 - In simultaneous, if not necessarily
coordinated operations, there are attacks against the forces of the
Islamic State (ISIS or Daech in its Arabic abbreviation) in Syria and
Iraq.  ISIS had abolished in practice the frontier between Iraq and
Syria, which had been created in 1916 by the agreement of Sir Mark Sykes
for the UK and Francois Georges−Picot for France. Particular attention
must be paid to the current battle for Fallujah and reports of mass
violations of the laws of war.

    The United Nations Secretariat has raised an alarm concerning the
fate of some 400 Iraqi families held by the ISIS forces for possible
use as "human shields" in the battle for the city of Fallujah, held by
ISIS since January 2014.  The use of civilians as "human shields" is a
violation of the laws of war set out in the Geneva Conventions.  ISIS
leaders have been repeatedly warned by the International Committee of
the Red Cross, which, by treaty, is responsible for the respect and
application of the Geneva Conventions.

    In addition to the some 400 families who have been rounded up and
are being held as a group in the center of Fallujah, there are a large
number of children −UNICEF estimates 20,000 − trapped in the city and
who may be used in military ways, either to fight or as suicide bombers.

    The danger from the disintegrating ISIS is that there are no
longer the few restraints that existed among some of the ISIS leadership
for the laws of war.  As Iraqi troops have drawn closer to Fallujah,
they have found mass graves with both soldiers and civilians killed. One
of the fundamental aspects of the laws of war is the protection of
prisoners of war.  Once a person is no longer able to combat, he must be
treated as a prisoner and no longer a combatant.  Not killing a
prisoner is a core value of humanitarian law, and ISIS has deliberately
violated this norm.

    However, ISIS may not be alone in the systematic violation of the
laws of war.  The NGO Human Rights Watch has reported that it has
received credible allegations from the areas around Fallujah of summary
executions, enforced disappearances and mutilations of corpses by Iraqi
government forces or militias such as the Popular Mobilization Forces
supported by the Iraqi government.

    There is a real danger that, as the Islamic State disintegrates
and no longer controls territory, it will increase terrorist actions and
deliberate violations of the laws of war.  The Association of World
Citizens has stressed that the laws of war have become part of world law
and are binding upon States and non-State actors even if they have not
signed the Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocols.

    World law does not destroy violence unless it is bound up with an
organized, stable and relatively just society. No society can be stable
unless it is broadly based in which all sectors of the population are
involved.  Such stability does not exist in either Syria or Iraq.
However, repeated violations of the laws of war will increase the divide
among groups and communities.  Only by a wide public outcry in defense
of humanitarian law can this danger be reduced. These grave violations
by ISIS and others must be protested by as wide a coalition of concerned
voices as possible. The time for action is now.

_______________________________________

René Wadlow, is president and a U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment



Yemen: Political negotiations halted. Humanitarian crisis continues

 August 08, 2016

 

By Rene Wadlow

On Saturday, 6 August, the political negotiations to stop the armed
conflict in Yemen came to a halt − not a great surprise but a bad sign
nevertheless for the many Yemeni suffering.  The negotiations sponsored
by the United Nations and led by Ismail Ould Chekh Ahmed held in Kuwait
had been broken off before, but this time the break may be a sign of the
future division of the country.  The idea of a "national unity
government" had been often mentioned but no serious steps in that
direction have been taken. Ould Cheikh Ahmed stated the obvious saying
"The biggest dilemma we faced was a deficit of trust between the
parties." He urged all to initiate confidence-building measures and to
"refrain from adopting unilateral measures."

By "unilateral measures", he was thinking of plans to divide the
country largely along the lines of the territories now controlled by one
faction and the other. There is a strong bias among government
representatives at the UN against the break up of a State, especially if
done only by military means. The creation of South Sudan was in
practice a  division along the lines of military control, but the break
was "blessed" by a referendum said to express the will of the people.
Somalia has for all practical purposes split into three, perhaps four,
separate States, but no one wants to say so.

A return to at least two Yemeni States would not be a radical change
as there was never a really functioning single State. However, there are
deep set fears that if the UN is willing to accept the divisions of one
country, no one knows how many may follow.  While the governments in
the UN were willing to sanction the break up of the Yugoslav federation
and to accept as members the former Yugoslav republics, there has been
an unwillingness to accept the break up of the Serbian republic and to
admit the existence of Kosovo.

On behalf of the Association of World Citizens, I had stressed the
need to start planning for post-war renewal in Yemen, even before there
was a post-war condition.  Yemeni society is clan-extended family based,
and the basic needs approach proposed is a family-focused approach. A
basic needs approach to post-war reconstruction is as valid for two
States as well as for one. I do not in particular advocate the division
of Yemen, but division may be the only political structure on which the
factions can agree. The crucial issue at hand is to build the
foundations of a relatively peaceful society in which socio-economic
development can take place.


 

Rene Wadlow is the President of the Association of World Citizens,
an international peace organization with consultative status with
ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation
on and problem-solving in economic and social issues.


19 August: World Day: A Need for Common Actions

Rene Wadlow

In memory of Sergio Vieira de Mello (1948-2003)

The United Nations General Assembly has designated
19 August as "World Humanitarian Day" to pay tribute to aid workers in
humanitarian service in difficult and often dangerous conditions. 19
August was designated in memory of the 19 August 2003 bombing of the UN
office building in Baghdad, Iraq in which Sergio Vieira de Mello, UN
High Commissioner for Human Rights and at the time Special
Representative of the UN Secretary General was killed along with 21 UN
staff members. Over 200 UN employees were injured. The exact
circumstances of the attack are not known, and why USA and UN security
around the building was not tighter is still not clear. A truck with
explosives was able to dive next to the building and then blew itself
up.

Sergio de Mellow had spent his UN career in
humanitarian efforts, often with the Office of the High Commissioner for
Refugees and at other times as Special Representative of the UN
Secretary General. As an NGO representative to the UN in Geneva and
active on human rights issues, I knew him during his short 2002-2003
tenure as High Commissioner for Human Rights. Many of us had high hopes
that his dynamism, relative youth (he was 54) and wide experience in
conflict resolution efforts would provide new possibilities for human
rights efforts. His death along with the death of others who had been
Geneva-based was a stark reminder of the risks that exist for all
engaged in humanitarian and conflict resolution work.

This year the risks and dangers are not just
memories but are daily news. On 3 May 2016, the UN Security Council
unanimously adopted Resolution 2286 calling for greater protection for
health care institutions and personnel in light of recent attacks
against hospitals and clinics in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan,
Democratic Republic of Congo, and Afghanistan. These attacks on medical
facilities are too frequent to be considered "collateral damage." The
attacks indicate a dangerous trend of non-compliance with world law by
both State and non- State agents. The protection of medical personnel
and the treatment of all the wounded − both allies and enemies − goes
back to the start of humanitarian law.

The Association of World Citizens has
stressed the need for accountability, including by investigation of
alleged violations of the laws of war. The grave violations by the
Islamic State (ISIS) must be protested by as wide a coalition of
concerned voices as possible. There is a real danger that as ISIS
disintegrates and no longer controls as much territory, it will increase
terrorist actions.

The laws of war, now more often called
humanitarian law, have two wings, one dealing with the treatment of
medical personnel in armed conflict situations, the military wounded,
prisoners of war, and the protection of civilians. This wing is
represented by the Geneva (Red Cross) Conventions. The second wing,
often called The Hague Conventions limit or ban outright the use of
certain categories of weapons. These efforts began at The Hague with the
1900 peace conferences and have continued even if the more recent
limitations on land mines, cluster weapons and chemical weapons have
been negotiated elsewhere.

The ban on the use of weapons are binding
only on States which have ratified the convention. Thus the current use
of USA-made cluster weapons in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition
is, in a narrow sense, legal as the USA, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have not
signed the cluster weapon ban. The Association of World Citizens was
one of the NGOs leading the campaign against cluster weapons. My
position is that when a large number of States ratify a convention
(which is the case for the cluster-weapons ban) then the convention
becomes world law and so must be followed by all States and non-State
actors even if they have not signed or ratified the convention. The same
holds true for the use of land mines currently being widely used by
ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The current situation concerning refugees and
internally-displaced persons can also be considered as part of
humanitarian law. Thus those working with refugees and the displaced
within their country are also to be honored by the World Humanitarian
Day. To prevent and alleviate human suffering, to protect life and
health and to ensure respect for the human person − these are the core
values of humanitarian law.

There needs to be a wide public outcry in the
defense of humanitarian law so that violations can be reduced. The time
for action is now.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens


Aleppo: Short-term action followed by reaffirmation of humanitarian law

Russian personnel on the ground fixing a missile to a jet in Latakia aiport (Photo: Courtesy of WikiCommons

 
)

Aleppo: Short-term action followed by reaffirmation of humanitarian law

on: December 01, 2016

By Rene Wadlow

Stephen O'Brien, the United Nations Under Secretary-General for
Humanitarian Affairs describing the ever-more destructive situation in
and around Aleppo, Syria, said "The parties to the conflict have shown
time and again they are willing to take any action to secure military
advantage even if it means killing, maiming or starving children into
submission in the process."

A large number of persons are trapped within the city, victims of
blind bombardments, shelling, land-mines and gun fire.  Some persons are
used as "human shields" and are unable to protect themselves. Medical
facilities have been destroyed, and medical supplies are lacking. Food
is unable to reach much of the population, and relief efforts are unable
to reach persons in real need.

For the moment, there seems to be no willingness to negotiate a broad
cease-fire. The United Nations Security Council is blocked. Thus, the
only short-term action possible is to create "safe routes" so that those
who wish to leave the besieged areas can do so. Mr Brita Hagel Hasan,
an elected official of a committee administering parts of Aleppo has
made a moving appeal for such humanitarian corridors. Some persons, an
estimated 16,000 as of the first of December  have already been able to
leave the city, but many more would do so if true safe routs were put
into place.

However, there are two immediate obstacles. Many persons feel that
such "safe routes" would, in fact, not be safe. There is a fear that
they would be trapped, and once outside of their houses in the open,
they would be shot at or bombed. The second fear is that they would not
be safe when they reach government-held areas but could become victims
of government-led repression.

Thus, there is a double, short-term need: the first is accompaniment
of citizens leaving the area either by UN or other international troops
or by unarmed non-governmental observers. With such accompaniment ,
there would be some reluctance to attack persons on foot or in buses.
The second need is for credible guarantees by the government that there
would be no reprisals against civilians, most of whom have been living
in opposition-administered parts of the city, often for several years.
There needs to be some sort of international follow-up to make sure that
such government guarantees are honored.

Beyond these short-term but vital efforts, there is a longer-term
need for the reaffirmation of the validity of humanitarian law and
especially a reaffirmation of respect for humanitarian law.

The current armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, and the
Syria-Iraq-ISIS-Kurds- Turkey conflict have  seen a dangerous erosion of
respect for the laws of war concerning medical facilities and
personnel, concerning prisoners of war, of hostages, and of civilians,
in particular women and children.  There have been repeated cries of
alarm from leaders of the International Committee of the Red Cross, of
the United Nations, and non-governmental organizations such as the
Association of World Citizens.  However, violations of these fundamental
prohibitions of the laws of war continue.  There have been relatively
few call for creative responses in the face of these continuing
violations.

Thus, the Association of World Citizens stresses the need to create
immediately internationally-guaranteed safe routes for the evacuation of
civilians from the besieged areas of Aleppo. Such guaranteed safe
routes can also serve as a model for civilians in other besieged cities.

The Association of World Citizens also calls for a serious
investigation of the reasons for the erosion of the respect for
humanitarian law to be followed by a United Nations-led conference on
the reaffirmation of humanitarian law.

Rene Wadlow
 

Rene Wadlow is the President of the Association of World Citizens, an
international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC,
the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation on and
problem-solving in economic and social issues.


Aleppo: Short-Term Action Followed by Reaffirmation of Humanitarian Law

MILITARISM

, 5 December 2016

Rene Wadlow - TRANSCEND Media Service

René Wadlow

2 Dec 2016 - Stephen O'Brien, the United Nations Under
Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs describing the ever-more
destructive situation in and around Aleppo, Syria, said "The parties to
the conflict have shown time and again they are willing to take any
action to secure military advantage even if it means killing, maiming or
starving children into submission in the process."

A large number of persons are trapped
within the city, victims of blind bombardments, shelling, land-mines and
gun fire.  Some persons are used as "human shields" and are unable to
protect themselves. Medical facilities have been destroyed, and medical
supplies are lacking. Food is unable to reach much of the population,
and relief efforts are unable to reach persons in real need.

For the moment, there seems to be no
willingness to negotiate a broad cease-fire. The United Nations Security
Council is blocked. Thus, the only short-term action possible is to
create "safe routes" so that those who wish to leave the besieged areas
can do so. Mr Brita Hagel Hasan, an elected official of a committee
administering parts of Aleppo has made a moving appeal for such
humanitarian corridors. Some persons, an estimated 16,000 as of the
first of December have already been able to leave the city, but many
more would do so if true safe routs were put into place.

However, there are two immediate
obstacles. Many persons feel that such "safe routes" would, in fact, not
be safe. There is a fear that they would be trapped, and once outside
of their houses in the open, they would be shot at or bombed. The second
fear is that they would not be safe when they reach government-held
areas but could become victims of government-led repression.

Thus, there is a double, short-term need:
the first is accompaniment of citizens leaving the area either by UN or
other international troops or by unarmed non-governmental observers.
With such accompaniment, there would be some reluctance to attack
persons on foot or in buses. The second need is for credible guarantees
by the government that there would be no reprisals against civilians,
most of whom have been living in opposition-administered parts of the
city, often for several years. There needs to be some sort of
international follow-up to make sure that such government guarantees are
honored.

Beyond these short-term but vital efforts,
there is a longer-term need for the reaffirmation of the validity of
humanitarian law and especially a reaffirmation of respect for
humanitarian law.

The current armed conflicts in
Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, and the Syria-Iraq-ISIS-Kurds- Turkey
conflict have  seen a dangerous erosion of respect for the laws of war
concerning medical facilities and personnel, concerning prisoners of
war, of hostages, and of civilians, in particular women and children.
The same conditions of destruction, death and the total disregard for
humanitarian law exist in the battle of Mosul, 600 kilometers to the
east of Alppo.   There have been repeated cries of alarm from leaders of
the International Committee of the Red Cross, of the United Nations,
and non-governmental organizations such as the Association of World
Citizens.  However, violations of these fundamental prohibitions of the
laws of war continue.  There have been relatively few call for creative
responses in the face of these continuing violations.

Thus, the Association of World Citizens
stresses the need to create immediately internationally-guaranteed safe
routes for the evacuation of civilians from the besieged areas of
Aleppo. Such guaranteed safe routes can also serve as a model for
civilians in other besieged cities such as Mosul.

The Association of World Citizens also
calls for a serious investigation of the reasons for the erosion of the
respect for humanitarian law to be followed by a United Nations-led
conference on the reaffirmation of humanitarian law.

____________________________________

René Wadlow is president and a U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment


Battle for Fallujah: Protests Needed against Violations of Humanitarian Law


Rene Wadlow - 


    12 June 2016 - In simultaneous, if not necessarily
coordinated operations, there are attacks against the forces of the
Islamic State (ISIS or Daech in its Arabic abbreviation) in Syria and
Iraq.  ISIS had abolished in practice the frontier between Iraq and
Syria, which had been created in 1916 by the agreement of Sir Mark Sykes
for the UK and Francois Georges−Picot for France. Particular attention
must be paid to the current battle for Fallujah and reports of mass
violations of the laws of war.

    The United Nations Secretariat has raised an alarm concerning the
fate of some 400 Iraqi families held by the ISIS forces for possible
use as "human shields" in the battle for the city of Fallujah, held by
ISIS since January 2014.  The use of civilians as "human shields" is a
violation of the laws of war set out in the Geneva Conventions.  ISIS
leaders have been repeatedly warned by the International Committee of
the Red Cross, which, by treaty, is responsible for the respect and
application of the Geneva Conventions.

    In addition to the some 400 families who have been rounded up and
are being held as a group in the center of Fallujah, there are a large
number of children −UNICEF estimates 20,000 − trapped in the city and
who may be used in military ways, either to fight or as suicide bombers.

    The danger from the disintegrating ISIS is that there are no
longer the few restraints that existed among some of the ISIS leadership
for the laws of war.  As Iraqi troops have drawn closer to Fallujah,
they have found mass graves with both soldiers and civilians killed. One
of the fundamental aspects of the laws of war is the protection of
prisoners of war.  Once a person is no longer able to combat, he must be
treated as a prisoner and no longer a combatant.  Not killing a
prisoner is a core value of humanitarian law, and ISIS has deliberately
violated this norm.

    However, ISIS may not be alone in the systematic violation of the
laws of war.  The NGO Human Rights Watch has reported that it has
received credible allegations from the areas around Fallujah of summary
executions, enforced disappearances and mutilations of corpses by Iraqi
government forces or militias such as the Popular Mobilization Forces
supported by the Iraqi government.

    There is a real danger that, as the Islamic State disintegrates
and no longer controls territory, it will increase terrorist actions and
deliberate violations of the laws of war.  The Association of World
Citizens has stressed that the laws of war have become part of world law
and are binding upon States and non-State actors even if they have not
signed the Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocols.

    World law does not destroy violence unless it is bound up with an
organized, stable and relatively just society. No society can be stable
unless it is broadly based in which all sectors of the population are
involved.  Such stability does not exist in either Syria or Iraq.
However, repeated violations of the laws of war will increase the divide
among groups and communities.  Only by a wide public outcry in defense
of humanitarian law can this danger be reduced. These grave violations
by ISIS and others must be protested by as wide a coalition of concerned
voices as possible. The time for action is now.

_______________________________________

René Wadlow, is president and a U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment


The crumbling Islamic State: Its desperate violations of humanitarian law         


                    

By Rene Wadlow*


                 

    In simultaneous, if not necessary coordinated
                    operations, there are attacks against the forces of
                    the Islamic State (ISIS or Daech in its Arabic
                    abbreviation) in Syria and Iraq.  ISIS had, in
                    practice, abolished the frontier between Iraq and
                    Syria which had been created in 1916 by the
                    agreement of Sir Mark Sykes for the UK and Francois
                    Georges-Picot for France.


                 

    When the Allied forces landed in North Africa
                    in 1942, Winston Churchill was asked if this was the
                    beginning of the end of the Axis.  He replied to the
                    effect that it was perhaps not the beginning of the
                    end, but it was certainly the end of the beginning
                    of the Second World War. Current events, however,
                    may be the beginning of the end of ISIS but not of
                    its capacity for violence and continuing violations
                    of humanitarian law.


                 

    The United Nations Secretariat has raised an
                    alarm concerning the fate of some 400 Iraqi families
                    held by the ISIS forces for possible use as "human
                    shields" in the battle for the city of Fallujah,
                    held by ISIS since January 2014.  The use of
                    civilians as "human shields" is a violation of the
                    laws of war set out in the Geneva Conventions.  ISIS
                    leaders have been repeatedly warned by the
                    International Committee of the Red Cross, who, by
                    treaty, is responsible for the respect and
                    application of the Geneva Conventions.


                 

    In addition to the some 400 families who have
                    been rounded up and are being held as a group in the
                    center of Fallujah, there are a large number of
                    children − UNICEF estimates 20,000 − trapped in the
                    city and who may be used in military ways, either to
                    fight or as suicide bombers.


                 

    The danger from the disintegrating ISIS is that
                    there are no longer the few restraints that existed
                    among some of the ISIS leadership for the laws of
                    war.  As Iraqi troops have drawn closer to Fallujah
                    , they have found mass graves with both soldiers and
                    civilians killed.  One of the fundamental aspects of
                    the laws of war is the protection of prisoners of
                    war.  Once a person is no longer able to combat, he
                    must be treated as a prisoner and no longer a
                    combatant. Not killing a prisoner is a core value of
                    humanitarian law, and ISIS has  deliberately
                    violated this norm.


                 

    The Association of World Citizens has stressed
                    the need for accountability, including by
                    investigating alleged violations of the laws of
                    war.  These grave violations by ISIS must be
                    protested by as wide a coalition of concerned voices
                    as possible.  There is a real danger that, as the
                    Islamic State disintegrates and no longer controls
                    territory, it will increase terrorist actions.  Only
                    by a wide public outcry in defense of humanitarian
                    law can this danger be reduced. The time for action
                    is now.


                Rene Wadlow is the President of
                  the Association of World Citizens, an international
                  peace organization with consultative status with
                  ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating
                  international cooperation on and problem-solving in
                  economic and social issues.


21 May 2016


World Humanitarian Summit: On the Front Lines for Action



Rene Wadlow*


The World Humanitarian Summit organized by the United Nations will open
on 23 May 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.  The aim of the conference in the
words of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon is to see what should
be done "to end conflict, alleviate suffering and reduce risk and
vulnerability."  Turkey is on the front lines of the consequences
of armed conflict with nearly three million refugees from Syria and
Iraq as well as its own attacks against Kurds.  Turkey has entered
into agreements with the States of the European Union concerning the
flow of refugees through Turkey to Europe − agreements that have
raised controversy and concern from human rights organizations.


Given the policies of the Turkish government, some non-governmental
organizations have refused to participate in protest.  Doctors
Without Borders − one of the best-known of the relief organizations
− has pulled out.  However, the Association of World Citizens will
participate while working for a settlement of Kurdish issues at the
same time.


As with all UN conferences, there has been a good deal of earlier
discussion.   These discussions within UN agencies, national
governments, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have led to a
synthesis document which sets out the agenda and the main lines for
discussion in Istanbul.  It is the Secretary-General's report for the
World Humanitarian Summit
One humanity: shared responsibility. (A70/709).
There is a useful overview of the current world situation of
refugees, internally-displaced people and of people on the move to
escape persistent poverty.  There are also warnings about future
displacement of people due to the consequences of climate change. 


As the report highlights "The effort necessary to prevent and resolve
conflict will be massive but can be broken down into sets of core
actions.  They include demonstrating courageous leadership, acting
early, investing in stability and ensuring broad participation by
affected people and other stakeholders."


As with so many UN reports, there is a call for courageous political
leadership and a mobilization of political will. If there were more
courageous political leadership, we might not have the scope and
intensity of the problems we now face.  There is a limited amount
that we can do to provide courageous political leadership at the
national level.  Rather we have to ask what can we do within
non-governmental organizations in which we are active to resolve
conflicts and deal with some of the consequences of the conflicts
such as refugee flows.


I see three areas, outlined in the UN report as agenda items, that we
can develop on a non-governmental level. The UN report sets out the
values that also guide our NGO actions. "To prevent and alleviate
human suffering, to protect life and health and to ensure respect for
the human person  − these are the most important humanitarian
principles.


The first issue for NGO action is to strengthen respect for the laws of
war − now more commonly called Humanitarian Law.  The recent and
wide-spread attacks against medical facilities and medical personnel
indicate an erosion of the laws of war. There is an urgent need to
strengthen respect for the laws of war.  This is an issue on which
NGOs and the media can focus.  Much humanitarian law has already been
codified into the Geneva Conventions and other treaties.  States
which have not ratified should be encouraged to do so, but States
must also be encouraged to live up to their word.


The second area is risk analysis and the publication of findings.  All
governments do a certain amount of risk analysis and contingency
planning, especially the military.  However, they make their findings
public only when it serves their interests and States give little
information as to how the analysis was made.  NGOs along with
academic institutions can provide analysis from open sources and
indicate growing tension areas − what I have called "storm
warnings". For storm warnings to be effective, they need to reach
as many people as possible and especially those in the path of the
storm.  International support for conflict resolution efforts must be
made early and in a continuing way. If a storm does not break out
quickly, it does not mean that the "storm-creating factors" have
gone away and that attention can be put on other possible conflict
areas. There need to be constant awareness of the way that tensions
may form.


The third issue is training and preparation. There are a relatively large
number of people working for (or having worked for) relief
operations. They are able to set up tents, field kitchens, field
clinics and water supplies. There may be need for more but there is
not much room for innovation.  However, teaching in refugee camps,
dealing with longer-range psychological damage are areas where there
is less experience and also less agreement as to what is to be done.


We can wish creative energies for the participants in the World
Humanitarian Summit.  Hopefully, the broad outline of actions
necessary will be set, but the real work of all international
conferences comes in the follow up.


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation on and problem-solving in economic and social issues.