DG ECHO staff training emphasizes global obligation to respect IHL

The Brussels delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) organized an introductory training session on international humanitarian law (IHL) for staff members of the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO).

Requested by DG ECHO as part of the continuing cooperation with the ICRC, the training programme was held on 18 April 2023. Around 140 staff members, including policy officers and deputy heads of unit, participated in the training.

The programme featured several ICRC speakers and sessions providing background information and practical knowledge of IHL to professionals in the humanitarian field that would help increase their understanding of the international legal frameworks applicable in armed conflict. The topics covered included the ICRC's exclusively humanitarian mission and mandate, the source of IHL and its relationship with other branches of international law, the conduct of hostilities, the protections afforded by IHL, contemporary challenges for IHL including those posed by new technologies and urban warfare, the different roles of the EU vis-à-vis IHL, the general legal framework and the Support Relationship Initiative.

We then delved deeper into how to prevent IHL violations. This topic is of particular interest for the ICRC, as much attention has been given on accountability. While ensuring repression is fundamental, more effort should be focused on avoiding violations in the first place.

IHL violations are not an unavoidable by-product of armed conflict. Respecting and ensuring respect for IHL is a universal obligation and a shared responsibility. States and international organizations as the EU have a unique role to play in this regard by using their influence to put an end to violations, but also first and foremost to help prevent such violations,

said Pauline Warnotte, senior legal adviser of the ICRC's Brussels delegation.

The event was also an occasion to emphasize the ICRC's role as the primary expert on IHL-related matters for the European Union.