South Africa: 15th Annual Regional Seminar on International Humanitarian Law - Summary Report

15th Annual Regional Seminar on International Humanitarian Law
18 – 21 August 2015
OR Tambo Building, Pretoria

Representatives from 16 Southern African countries gathered in South Africa from 18 to 21 August 2015 for the 15th Annual Regional International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Seminar, co-hosted by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation of the Government of the Republic of South Africa and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Hon L. Landers, in his opening remarks reminded participants that some of the most lethal conflicts are playing out on the African continent, which make the work of this International Humanitarian Law Seminar more crucial than ever before, not only because of the "senseless pain and untold suffering war inflicts on innocent populations", but also because of the major threat it poses to the sustainable peace and development on the continent. He also emphasized the importance of this seminar in preparation for the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in December 2015, which would afford States an opportunity to reflect on various humanitarian issues and challenges and work together towards sustainable solutions.

Deputy Minister Landers noted the importance of the Health Care in Danger (HCiD) Project, which was piloted in 2011 as a result of the increasing number of deliberate attacks against health-care workers and facilities. South Africa, as one of the five diplomatic champions identified to promote awareness about attacks against health care in situations of armed conflict and other emergencies, co-hosted a HCiD workshop in April 2014. The outcomes will form part of a report to the 32nd International Conference, together with a resolution on HCiD, which countries are encouraged to support.

In his opening remarks, Jürg Eglin, head of the ICRC regional delegation in Pretoria, noted that the discussions at the seminar would contribute to the comprehensive preparation process and ensure that deliberations at the International Conference are streamlined and that concrete and substantive outcomes can be secured.

Participants reflected on the challenges of implementation of and compliance with IHL under the theme – The Power of Humanity: International Humanitarian Law in Action. They also considered special themes relating to the upcoming International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent which, every four years, brings together all signatories of the Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols as well as the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement. The seminar was attended by government representatives from Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Representatives of the African Union Commission, the SADC Secretariat and the Pan African Parliament also participated.

The following are recommended as specific draft outcomes from the seminar:

  • To recognize the value of participation of representatives from the African Union Commission (AUC), the Pan African Parliament (PAP) and the SADC Secretariat at the Annual Regional IHL Seminar;
  • To increase engagement with and within regional and continental fora like the AUC and SADC on the implementation of IHL in line with Agenda 2063's vision of "The Africa We Want";
  • To consider the organization by the ICRC and SADC Secretariat of a high-level event on the margins of the SADC Summit on the importance of IHL in the region;
  • To present a common African position on IHL at the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, formulated through the Africa Group of Ambassadors in Geneva with support from the African Union Commission and with input from Member States;
  • To encourage signature by governments represented at the Annual Regional IHL Seminar of a regional pledge on IHL, to be deposited at the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent;
  • To continue co-hosting of the Annual Regional Seminar by South Africa and the ICRC;
  • To encourage sub-regional peer-to-peer engagement on IHL, emphasizing exchange of information and best practices of the national committees overseeing IHL and IHRL (international human rights law);
  • To increase sensitization of parliamentarians through focused engagement and dissemination of IHL;
  • To increase dissemination of IHL to media through dedicated programmes or campaigns;
  • To recognize the auxiliary role of National Societies to governments on the implementation of IHL and disaster risk mitigation.