Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
Treaties and Documents
Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols, and their Commentaries
Historical Treaties and Documents
Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977.
[p.805] Part IV, Section II -- Relief in favour of the civilian population
2765 Providing supplies for the civilian population in time of armed conflict is a basic problem, as events have frequently and cruelly
2766 The fourth Convention contains numerous provisions -- Articles 47
-78 -- relating to the obligations of an Occupying Power with
respect to the population of the occupied territory. Moreover,
of this Convention deals with the free passage to be
allowed to consignments intended for the civilian population of the
Parties to the conflict. However, this article imposes fairly narrow
limits with regard to the persons who may benefit from relief and
regarding the nature of the relief.
2767 A major area of concern with regard to this problem became apparent within the context of the Red Cross, and more generally, to
the whole of the international community. The XXIst International
Conference of the Red Cross (Istanbul, 1969) adopted in Resolution
XXVI a "Declaration of Principles for International Humanitarian
Relief to the Civilian Population in Disaster Situations". (1) In
Resolution 2675 (XXV) of 9 December 1970 the United [p.806] Nations
General Assembly, "' convinced ' that civilian populations are in
special need of increased protection in time of armed conflicts",
reaffirmed eight fundamental principles relating to the protection of
the civilian population in time of armed conflict, of which the
eighth (2) confirms the applicability of the Declaration mentioned
above in the case of armed conflict.
2768 The question was discussed during the drafting of the Draft Protocols, particularly in the Conferences of Government Experts and
Red Cross Experts. As it considered that the problem of relief in
occupied territory was adequately dealt with in the fourth
Convention, the 1973 draft laid the emphasis on the needs of civilian
populations who were not in occupied territory, i.e., essentially of
the population on the territory of a Party to the conflict. The first
article determined the field of application of the Section, and was
followed by an article underlining the responsibility of the Parties
to the conflict to secure supplies for the civilian population, and a
third article laying down the principle that relief actions should be
undertaken and accepted when a Party to the conflict does not manage
to secure such supplies. In addition, this article laid down the ways
in which these actions are to be undertaken.
2769 During the Diplomatic Conference some delegations, in the name of the principle of national sovereignty, took issue over the propriety
of an article reminding a Party to the conflict of its obligations to
secure supplies for its own population. In fact, it could be argued
that such a question is an issue of human rights rather than
international humanitarian law.
2770 Moreover, some considered that a Party to the conflict could not be prevented from according, in this field, priorities based on
military necessity rather than humanitarian criteria (for example,
privileges accorded to members of the armed forces to ensure their
health). Therefore, as the Parties to the conflict could not be
forced to fulfil this obligation ' without adverse distinction, '
they did not consider it worth mentioning. (3)
2771 On the other hand, there was a considerable body of opinion that the obligation of an Occupying Power to ensure essential supplies for
the civilian population of occupied territory should be supplemented,
despite the existence of the many provisions relating to such
territory in the fourth Convention. Consequently, in order to meet
this concern -- and not because it was logically required by the
general framework of the draft -- the article was finally formulated.
2772 However, the large majority of the civilian population, who are not in occupied territory in time of armed conflict, was not
forgotten. Though the Conference did not consider it appropriate to
introduce an article on the responsibility of each Party to the
conflict to secure supplies for its own population, as we have just
[p.807] seen, it did, on the other hand, agree to lay down the
principle that relief actions must be undertaken in favour of all
civilian populations with insufficient supplies, as laid down in the
draft. Moreover, the ways in which this principle is to be applied
are broadly described.
2773 Finally, the Conference added an article on the question of personnel participating in relief actions, which was not broached
either in the Conventions or in the 1973 draft.
2774 In conclusion, compared with the Conventions, the Protocol is characterized by enlarging the range of supplies deemed essential to
the civilian population of occupied territory; by an extension of the
benefit of this relief to the whole of the civilian population; by an
emphasis on the obligation -- even though still relative -- for the
Parties to the conflict to accept relief in case of necessity; by provisions relating to the personnel participating in relief actions,
who had been hitherto ignored.
' Y. S. '
(1) [(1) p.805] The Declaration is as follows:
"1. The fundamental concern of mankind and of the international community in disaster situations is the
protection and welfare of the individual and the
safeguarding of basic human rights.
2. Relief by impartial international humanitarian organizations for civilian populations in natural or
other disaster situations should as far as possible
be treated as a humanitarian and non-political matter
and should be so organized as to avoid prejudicing
sovereign and other legal rights in order that the
confidence of the Parties to a conflict in the
impartiality of such organizations may be preserved.
3. The activities of impartial international humanitarian organizations for the benefit of
civilian populations should be coordinated in order
to secure prompt action and effective allocation of
resources and to avoid duplication of effort.
4. Disaster relief for the benefit of civilian populations is to be provided without discrimination
and the offer of such relief by an impartial
international humanitarian organization ought not to
be regarded as an unfriendly act.
5. All States are requested to exercise their sovereign and other legal rights so as to facilitate the
transit, admission and distribution of relief
supplies provided by impartial international
humanitarian organizations for the benefit of
civilian populations in disaster areas when disaster
situations imperil the life and welfare of such
6. All authorities in disaster areas should facilitate disaster relief activities by impartial international
humanitarian organizations for the benefit of
(2) [(2) p.806] The complete text of this eighth principle is as follows; "The provision of international relief to
civilian populations is in conformity with the
humanitarian principles of the Charter of the United
Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and
other international instruments in the field of human
rights. The Declaration of Principles for International
Humanitarian Relief to the Civilian Population in Disaster
Situations, as laid down in Resolution XXVI adopted by the
twenty-first International Conference of the Red Cross,
shall apply in situations of armed -- conflict, and all
parties to a conflict should make every effort to
facilitate this application.";
(3) [(3) p.806] On the points mentioned in this paragraph and the preceding paragraph, cf. O.R. XII, p. 316,
CDDH/II/SR.84, paras. 31-35;