Council of the EU calls for better protection in humanitarian aid

Article 04 June 2024 Belgium

The Council of the EU recently approved Council conclusions on protection in humanitarian settings to help reduce the lack of protection of people affected by conflicts and violence and the constraints faced by humanitarian actors, including related to breaches of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and lack of access to affected communities around the world.

Conclusions are not intended to have legal effects. Still, they contain the Council's political position on specific topics, and provide strategic direction and policy guidance for the EU and its Members States, influencing the legislative and political agendas.
States bear the primary responsibility to protect and ensure the safety and security of individuals. With a clear reference to the ICRC protection policy, the conclusions recognize the importance of acting on different levels by responding, remedying and building environment, and acknowledging the role played by humanitarian diplomacy to advocate for the victims of conflicts and violence and to promote respect for IHL. They also invite the EU and its Member States to increase funding specifically dedicated to protection interventions to respond, mitigate, and reduce risks based on context specific protection analysis.

The ICRC welcomes the adoption of these conclusions strengthening the EU's commitment to place protection at the center of its humanitarian policy, and in line with its mandate stands ready to support the EU and its Member States to operationalize them. It wishes to clarify that the text should not be interpreted as implying that the ICRC would coordinate with the EU or its Member States in relation to accountability in cases of violations of International Humanitarian Law.

The ICRC prioritizes direct and confidential interactions with state and non-state actors, as well as other relevant stakeholders. It draws their attention to the humanitarian consequences of armed conflict and reminds them of their obligations under IHL and other applicable bodies of law. This is further reinforced by a recognised privilege of non-disclosure of confidential information with international and national courts, stemming from its mandate under the Geneva Conventions, and from the fundamental principles of neutrality and impartiality that are necessary for the ICRC to perform its humanitarian activities.