PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS: TWO YEARS ON FROM THE ADOPTION OF UNSC RESOLUTION 2417
It has been two years since the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2417 (2018), in which the UN Security Council (UNSC) recognized for the first time the intrinsic link between hunger and conflict and the essential role of international humanitarian law (IHL) in preventing and addressing hunger in armed conflict.
From 2018 GRC and its partners, including the World Peace Foundation (WPF), as supported by the Netherland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Welt Hunger Hilfe have been engaged on the issue of starvation. The high-level objective was to increase the likelihood that global leaders in a position to inflict or fail to prevent mass starvation will act to avoid it, amid mounting public pressure. The project aims at labelling the use of man-made famines appropriately in order to advance the prevention, prohibition and accountability for mass starvation.
Key Achievements Include:
- Supported with Switzerland the historic Rome Statute Amendment to include starvation as a war crime in non-international armed conflicts during the 18th Session of the ASP to the International Criminal Court (ICC) tabled by Switzerland.
- Published an Expert Report to improve the clarity, certainty and accessibility of international law applicable to deliberate starvation.
- Designed the first starvation website starvationaccountability.org serving as a resource hub on starvation, famine and food-insecurity.
- Produced the first Starvation Training Manual to enhance the suite of tools and guidelines necessary to identify and document the crime of starvation, available in Arabic and English. Training workshops delivered to UN and International NGOs, CSOs and journalists on using the Starvation Training Manual.
- Assisted Welt Hunger Hilfe (WHH), one of Germany’s biggest humanitarian organisations in their 2020 Kompass Publication focussing on conflict and hunger.
Following the Secretary General’s annual report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and a concept note circulated by the President of the UNSC, the UNSC members held an open videoconference (VTC) on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict on 27 May discussing the continued impact of conflict upon civilians, reiterating that
“while the normative framework has been strengthened, compliance has deteriorated”.
During the UNSC VTC, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, underlined that little progress has been achieved on compliance and protection of civilians in armed conflict, and together with UNSC members called for increased compliance with international human rights law (IHRL) and IHL. Significantly for GRCs work, he also stressed the essential nature of compliance and accountability, which are at present lacking.
Humanitarian access hampered by violence, insecurity and bureaucracy remains one of the issues high on the international agenda. Yemen registered 2570 access-related incidents in 2019 alone, leading to delays in humanitarian aid provision for 8.3 million people. Over 80 percent of the civilian population in Yemen is dependent on humanitarian aid, needs that remain largely unmet, exacerbated as both Yemeni government and Houthi armed forces have imposed flight bans and road restrictions in response to COVID-19, severely impacting relief operations.
With no clear end in sight, the Yemeni conflict has seen both Government forces and Armed Non State Actors (ANSAs), such as the Houthi rebel forces, engage in conduct violating basic IHRL and IHL principles relating to the protection of civilians in conflict, including but not limited to, impeding humanitarian operations through blockade, the imposition of onerous restrictions, levies or fees, that amount to violations of International Humanitarian Law and may constitute a war crime, i.e. the use starvation as method of war.
Conflict was still highlighted as the main driver of global hunger and according to the Global Report on Food Crises 2020, 77 million people facing acute hunger were living in countries or territories affected by conflict or insecurity.
It is fundamental to continue to strive towards ensure compliance with international legal frameworks and work towards accountability for violations. As the UNSG stated the world is facing “a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations” the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities of those least protected in conflict zones, raising new protection challenges for humanitarian and medical personnel and peacekeepers and humanitarian access to those in need. GRC have highlighted the plight of Yemen in relation to COVID-19 in a recent post on Just Security and through its recent work with the UN Special Rapporteur for Food.