Geneva: 35 armed movements adopt a declaration to better protect civilians in armed conflict
From 17th to 20th November, Geneva Call held in Geneva its Third Meeting of Signatories to the Deeds of Commitment and gathered 70 high-level representatives – political leaders, commanders and officers and legal advisers – of 35 armed non-State actors (ANSAs) coming from 14 different countries including Syria, Burma/Myanmar, Sudan, Philippines and Somalia. Most are signatories to at least one of Geneva Call’s Deeds of Commitment, but some non-signatory ANSAs also attended.
One of the main objectives of the meeting was to monitor the implementation of the commitments the signatories have taken. During three days, representatives from ANSAs attended sessions on international humanitarian norms, child protection, humanitarian mine action and gender issues given by recognized academics and experts coming from organizations such as UN agencies and international NGOs. During the sessions, representatives presented their own successes in implementing these norms but also the challenges they are facing with.
“It is very difficult to determine the age of a new recruit in the field, they don’t have official documents, and may try to join our armed forces even if they are under 18” explained a representative of an armed movement from Sudan. A child protection expert then detailed an approach that has been successful in such cases, for example to evaluate the age of children according to their memories of events that happened within their communities.
“This conference was the opportunity to reinforce the knowledge of international humanitarian norms of all participants but above all to strengthen their commitment to comply with these norms and show that it is possible for an armed movement to prohibit sexual violence, child soldiers or landmines” concluded Elisabeth Decrey Warner, Geneva Call’s President. “It was also an opportunity for Geneva Call to learn more about the constraints faced in the field by ANSAs when they want to better protect civilians.”
In a final declaration, all present ANSAs reaffirmed their willingness and responsibility to protect civilians in armed conflict and improve compliance with the “rules of war”. Signatories to the Deeds of Commitment adopted a specific declaration in which they commit to respect and implement the Deeds of Commitments they have signed.
To kick off the conference, two armed movements from Asia committed to abide by international humanitarian norms by each signing one of Geneva Call’s Deeds of Commitment. More signatures of the Deeds of Commitment by participants are expected soon.