South Africa: The 6th Commonwealth Conference

Building a culture of IHL compliance in Commonwealth Nations and commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions
image of the 6th Commonwealth Conference participants

A platform for sharing best practices on IHL. 

From 15–19 April, 2024, 100 representatives from 31 Commonwealth countries and 19 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies gathered in Pretoria, South Africa, for the 6th Commonwealth Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference on International Humanitarian Law, co-hosted by the Pretoria Regional Delegation, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation of the South African government, and the South Africa Red Cross Society, with support from the British Red Cross and Commonwealth Secretariat. 

Dr. Niles Melzer, being interviewed at the Conference

Dr. Niles Melzer, Director of International Law, Policy and Humanitarian Policy

"As we mark the Geneva Conventions 75th Anniversary, not a day goes by without us witnessing the cruel consequences of IHL violations across the world. When we see cities reduced to rubble, medical facilities or humanitarian personnel attacked, and children dying from starvation while humanitarian aid is blocked at checkpoints or borders, we cannot help but wonder: Where is humanity?", said, Dr. Nils Melzer, ICRC Director of International Law, Policy, and Humanitarian Diplomacy

"In a world that is currently witnessing more than one hundred armed conflicts, never has it been more critical that as Member States and global citizens generally, we take stock and unpack areas of international humanitarian law that require strengthening to ensure that this body of law is fundamentally respected", said Alvin Botes, South African Deputy Minister of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation

How does this event contribute to the preparation of the 34th International Red Cross Red Crescent Conference?

The Commonwealth Conference provides a valuable platform for exchanges between Commonwealth countries as well as between states and their respective national societies, notably in view of preparations for the 34th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Panel discussions and working group sessions allowed participants to engage in discussions on the IHL resolutions proposed for adoption as well as on possible pledges that states and NS can submit in the framework of the IC.

What are the main take aways?

Throughout the conference, panelists and participants alike acknowledged the 75th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions and agreed that while IHL can save lives when respected, the current lack of compliance in many contemporary armed conflicts was a major issue. Participants drafted a pledge to express their readiness to recommit to IHL, listing a number of concrete actions they were ready to take, ranging from increasing the ratification and accession to some key IHL treaties, to working on some specific thematic issues such as the protection of persons with disabilities during armed conflict, and the protection of health services. The voluntary pledge will be deposited by the South African government at the upcoming 34th International Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference in Geneva, inviting all states and NS from the Commonwealth to join.


Jules Amoti Addressing the Participants of the conference

Jules Amoti, Head of Pretoria Regional Delegation

As Jules Amoti, ICRC Head of Pretoria Regional Delegation said, "The conference could not have happened at a better time as States prepare to celebrate the Geneva Conventions of 1949, as they have become a lifesaver. In addition, through the respect of international humanitarian law by armed actors, the ICRC has continued to play a vital humanitarian role in ongoing armed conflicts worldwide."

image of the 6th Commonwealth Conference participants
Image of Participants during the conference
Image of the Participants Selfie collage
Image of South African Red Cross Volunteers