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Working together to strengthen international humanitarian law

12.08.2019 - Article

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, Poland has invited participants to a debate on strengthening international humanitarian law within the context of its Security Council Presidency. Foreign Minister Maas will attend the Security Council meeting in New York.

70 years of the Geneva Conventions

Foreign Minister Maas is travelling to the Security Council meeting in New York.
Foreign Minister Maas is travelling to the Security Council meeting in New York. (file photo)© Thomas Koehler/photothek.net

The four Geneva Conventions were adopted on 12 August 1949. They represent a milestone in international humanitarian law and form the basis of the law governing armed conflict in its current form. With them, the international community committed itself to observing the rules on protecting the civilian population and humanitarian aid workers and for the treatment of prisoners of war. They offer particular protection to those who are not actively involved in combat. The Conventions apply throughout the world to all stakeholders in armed conflicts.

International humanitarian law under pressure

These rules are coming under increasing pressure in growing numbers of ever more complex conflicts. In Syria, hospitals and ambulance vehicles are being attacked and destroyed. In Yemen, humanitarian aid workers are not being granted access to supply the suffering population with food. Schools and medical facilities are being drawn into combat, without consideration of the fact that children, sick and injured people are the ones who suffer most during armed conflict. On the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Geneva Conventions, Poland, which has the Security Council Presidency in August, has invited the Security Council to take part in a debate on strengthening international humanitarian law and protecting the civilian population in conflicts.

Initiative to strengthen international humanitarian law

Germany expressly supports this initiative, which is intended to send a tangible message of support for strengthening international humanitarian law. Foreign Minister Maas issued the following statement in Berlin prior to his departure:

Seventy years after the Geneva Conventions were adopted, protected persons suffer atrocities and tyranny every day. The international community must take action so that the breaking of taboos does not become a permanent state of affairs.

During the debate, foreign Minister Maas will appeal to the international community to undertake concrete steps.

Protection of humanitarian aid workers and an initiative to prevent the systematic use of sexual violence in conflicts are priorities of Germany’s Security Council Presidency. During their Security Council Presidencies in March and April, Germany and France launched the Humanitarian Call for Action, which is due to be presented during the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September.

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