Armed conflicts cause immense human suffering, especially among civilians. Improving compliance with international humanitarian law is one of the greatest humanitarian challenges facing the world today. Switzerland has made a long-term commitment to strengthening respect for international humanitarian law.
Strengthening respect for IHL
International humanitarian law (IHL) has evolved considerably since the adoption of the first Geneva Convention in 1864. IHL has been progressively adapted to cover new means and methods of warfare; furthermore, the protection of the civilian population and of persons who are not, or are no longer, participating in hostilities has been extended. The current normative framework is on the whole adequate. The main challenge at present is to strengthen compliance with IHL.
Following a resolution adopted by the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, between 2015 and 2019 Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) jointly conducted an intergovernmental process aimed at improving compliance with IHL. The main objective was to reach a consensus on the establishment of a forum for dialogue among states on IHL, and on ways to make better use of the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent as well as regional forums. In the current multilateral environment, it was not possible to reach a consensus. Nevertheless, the intergovernmental process did underline the universal validity of IHL. Furthermore, a wide range of ideas on how to improve the implementation of international humanitarian law were put forward, which can be further pursued.