ICRC and Parliaments: the fruitful collaboration with the Inter-Parliamentary Union

Respecting and ensuring respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) requires extensive political mobilisation. The ratification of IHL treaties and other relevant instruments is a critical first step in making sure those entitled to protection under the law actually benefit from it; and Parliaments play a vital role in this regard.

Parliamentarians not only oversee the executive's action in applying the law, but also have the capability and authority to transmit IHL rules to the population as well as to ensure that the competent institutions, including the army and security forces, receive adequate instruction in them. Moreover, by putting in place policy, legal and financial frameworks Parliaments allow governments to support humanitarian action over many years and better address the needs and challenges facing people in protracted conflicts.

Established in 1889 and with its Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the oldest multilateral political organisation, currently brings together 170 affiliated parliaments and 11 associated regional assemblies. The ICRC benefits from a longstanding relationship with the IPU translated into various activities.

Held in Geneva from 23 to 27 October 2016, the 135th Assembly of the IPU constituted a unique opportunity to address the world parliamentarians' community on pressing humanitarian issues and IHL. The ICRC had the opportunity to make a statement within the General debate that focused on the role of parliamentarians in the promotion and implementation of IHL, and several ICRC experts participated in panel discussions on promoting democratic accountability of the private security sector; Refugees, migrants and their hosts – what next?; and Securing the rights and future of women and girls during war and conflict.

Of particular interest for the ICRC is the Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law which monitors ratification of relevant international instruments and their implementation at national level and raises awareness on issues requiring parliamentary action. The 29th Session of the Committee offered the opportunity for the ICRC to brief its members on the update of the Commentary to the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Meeting of National Committees and Similar Bodies on IHL as well as the publication of the ICRC-IPU Handbook for Parliamentarians on IHL.

Drawing from the 1999 edition, the updated Handbook is specially designed to familiarize parliamentarians with the general principles of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. It provides step-by-step information on measures that States party to the Geneva Conventions must take so as to fulfil the obligations they have accepted to "respect and ensure respect" for IHL.

Illustrating the fruitful collaboration between the ICRC and the IPU, the French and English versions of the Handbook were launched in the margins of the 135th Assembly of the IPU by Martin Chungong, Secretary General of the IPU; Christine Beerli, Vice-president of the ICRC; and Saber Chowdhury, President of the IPU on 27 October 2016.

135th Assembly of the IPU, Launch of ICRC Handbook, Speech of Mme Beerli

PDF file
57.01 KB

135th IPU Assembly, ICRC Statement

PDF file
18.81 KB

International Humanitarian Handbook for Parliamentarians

PDF file
4.31 MB