Government representatives from twelve Southern African countries including Indian Ocean Islands States gathered in Pretoria, South Africa from 22 to 24 October 2019, for the 19th Annual Regional Seminar on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) co-hosted by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) of the Republic of South Africa and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The year 2019, marks the 70th Anniversary of the Geneva Conventions – the central instrument of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The seminar was held on the theme of the Geneva Conventions joining the international community in the commemorations.
Participants acknowledged worldwide commitment to the principles and rules of IHL demonstrated by States through their universal ratification of the Geneva Conventions. They reaffirmed the continuing relevance of protecting and preserving human dignity during armed conflict, despite the contemporary challenges to IHL and the evolution of the means and methods of warfare.
Drawing on sentiments shared by DIRCO Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor during the high-level commemorative meeting on the 70th Anniversary of the Geneva Conventions on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on 23 September 2019, and collective discussions within the context of the seminar, the participants reiterated their governments’ commitment to promoting respect for complying with and defending the principles, spirit and rules of IHL.
The same sentiments were also reiterated by Kgabo Mahoai, director-general of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, during his opening address and he urged the participating governments to come up with concrete outcomes that will assist governments in implementing the Geneva Conventions and other complementary standards.
Convening in plenary, expert groups and panel discussions, participants further reflected on the current status of implementation and compliance with IHL in the region and came up with concrete recommendations on strengthening implementation. Reflecting also on the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention), participants were encouraged to identify and commit to tangible measures to strengthen the protection of internally displaced persons on the continent.
Representatives from the following states participated in the 19th edition of the Regional IHL Seminar: Angola, Comoros, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Madagascar, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.