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The legal framework of humanitarian access in armed conflict

31-12-2011 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 884, by Felix Schwendimann

Obtaining and maintaining humanitarian access to populations in need by humanitarian actors is a challenge. The main purpose of this article is to lay out the existing international legal framework regulating humanitarian access in situations of armed conflict.

Abstract

Obtaining and maintaining humanitarian access to populations in need by humanitarian actors is a challenge. A wide range of constraints on humanitarian access exist, including ongoing hostilities or an otherwise insecure environment, destruction of infrastructure, often onerous bureaucratic requirements, and attempts by parties to armed conflict to block access intentionally. The difficulties that these constraints present to humanitarians are frequently compounded by a lack of familiarity – on the part of states, non-state armed groups, and humanitarian relief organizations – with the legal framework. The main purpose of this article is to lay out the existing international legal framework regulating humanitarian access in situations of armed conflict.

Biography

Felix Schwendimann is Diplomatic Officer in the Section for International Humanitarian Law, Directorate of International
Law, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.