ICRC urges States to take action on rules of war and climate change

20 September 2019

New York (ICRC) – World leaders attending the UN General Assembly High-Level Week from 24 to 27 September should take action on the globe's most pressing humanitarian crises, preserve and expand the shrinking humanitarian space, abide by the rules of war, and tackle climate change.

"Climate change, protracted conflict, and weapons capable of wide destruction in urban areas mean increased hardship and suffering for people caught in conflict," said ICRC President Peter Maurer. "Making matters worse, the humanitarian space is shrinking even as it's increasingly needed."

Maurer and other International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) leaders will address events on climate change and security, international humanitarian law, Syria, and the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Included in the ICRC delegation are: Yves Daccord, director-general; Patricia Danzi, regional director for Africa; and Robert Mardini, permanent observer to the United Nations.

"Humanitarian organizations are finding it challenging to operate in a time of a politicization of humanitarian aid, which can have unintended consequences on humanitarian operations and undue suffering due to a lack of respect for the rules of war," Maurer said.

During the week, Maurer and members of the delegation will press upon states to:

• Take action on climate change to avert disastrous humanitarian consequences, particularly in Africa. Nine of the top ten countries most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa, and seven of those nine are affected by armed conflict.

• Minimize suffering by avoiding the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and protect the neutral, impartial humanitarian action and preserve humanitarian space in counter-terrorism or sanctions measures.

• Treat those no longer taking part in hostilities humanely and in accordance with international humanitarian law. This includes detainees or foreign fighters and members of their family.

• The ICRC and Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement see the nuclear weapon ban treaty (TPNW) as an indispensable step toward the elimination and prohibition of nuclear weapons. Even as we see a rising risk of nuclear weapons use, it's encouraging that many States will sign or ratify the treaty during this General Assembly. We call on all States to join it.

"Seventy years ago, the world came together to agree on ways to minimize suffering in conflict, a humanitarian commitment solidified in the Geneva Conventions. Universally ratified, the Conventions are still relevant today. They save lives, limit suffering, and help preserve the needed humanitarian space. The world is a better place when we abide by them," Maurer said.