Annual Report 2013: Protecting civilians in armed conflict
The recent War Report describes 27 on-going non-international armed conflicts in 24 States or territories, all involving armed non-State actors (ANSAs), most of them unequivocally subject to International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Violations of international humanitarian norms are widespread in all of these conflicts, with civilians consistently suffering the most. Many IHL violations – though not all – are committed by ANSAs. Indeed, ANSA lack of compliance with IHL has been repeatedly identified as one of the five most critical challenges to the protection of civilians by the United Nations Secretary-General. On this basis, engaging ANSAs towards a decrease in civilian suffering is a humanitarian imperative.
Geneva Call is one of few organizations to respond specifically to this challenge. Over the past 14 years, Geneva Call has developed its skills, know-how and experience, and is today recognized as a key contributor in the engagement of ANSAs on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. For example, the European Union’s High Representative for
Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, noted the EU’s support to “leading organisations in the field of IHL, such as the ICRC or Geneva Call.” The organization is today running over 60 projects in around 20 countries with just 18 full-time staff engaging 48 ANSAs. 59 Deeds of Commitment have been signed since Geneva Call’s beginnings, and require monitoring, directly in the field and with partners. More commitments are expected to be made in 2014 and several new ANSA engagements are to take place.
Yet Geneva Call cannot just rest on its laurels. At present, Geneva Call has started to work with ANSAs on the differences and similarities between IHL and Islamic Law, and the increasing use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The organization is responding more and more to requests from ANSAs, partners and international organizations to train them and share its experience on these topics.
And for the future, questions are being raised about potential developments such as, for example, to offer ANSAs the opportunity to engage more formally on international humanitarian standards, and on issues such as the displacement of populations .
“The Security Council recognizes the need for consistent engagement by humanitarian agencies with all parties to armed conflict for humanitarian purposes, including activities aimed at ensuring respect for international humanitarian law.” President of the UN Security Council, 12 February 2013.
Geneva Call is grateful to its dedicated staff, board, partners and donors for their trust and support. It is confident that the positive impact its activities have on the protection of civilians and alleviation of their suffering will reinforce donor confidence and enable the organization to pursue its sustainable development and its humanitarian mission.