Bangladesh: Experts discuss relevance of Geneva Conventions amid today’s challenging humanitarian contexts
On 20 June 2019, Academicians, journalists, and humanitarian professionals came together in Dhaka to discuss the challenges and relevance of international humanitarian law (IHL) and customary law amid increasing humanitarian crises around the world, including the Rakhine crisis. This daylong seminar has helped shape the debate and discussions around the Geneva Conventions which celebrate their 70th anniversary on the 12th of August this year.
The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are international treaties that contain the most important rules limiting the barbarity of war. They protect people who do not take part in the fighting (civilians, medics, aid workers) and those who can no longer fight (wounded, sick and shipwrecked troops, prisoners of war).
Questions and comments from the audience - including students from law and international relations faculties, and representatives of national and international humanitarian organizations – enriched the debate. The event was jointly organized by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) and the ICRC in Dhaka.
The four Geneva Conventions are among the very few international treaties that have been universally ratified, not least because they reflect more than just law - universal values of ethical behavior and have existed to protect people for seven decades. However, contemporary challenges to the Geneva Conventions respect and implementation are at the core of the ICRC's preoccupations as the guardian of IHL, and other stakeholders worldwide, including DCAB, as illustrated by the discussions.
The speakers in the seminar have agreed upon the unremitting questions on the relevance of IHL in today's world, with civilians bearing the brunt of many protracted conflicts. But, the rules of IHL remain as relevant as ever as their effect can be seen every day: when a wounded person is allowed through a checkpoint, when a child receives food and other humanitarian aid, when the living conditions of detainees are improved or when they can have contact with their families. When IHL is respected, harm to civilians is drastically reduced.