Role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights

27th session, Human Rights Council

The ICRC shares the commitment to a proactive approach to prevention and firmly supports the Human Rights Council in its work in this area.

Indeed, the prevention of violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) is necessary and achievable. We are committed to joining with others to develop and strengthen the role of prevention in ensuring greater respect for the law, with a view to mitigating the impact of armed conflict and other situations of violence on people's lives.

Under IHL, prevention is rooted in the obligations incumbent on all parties to the Geneva Conventions and other relevant treaties to incorporate the provisions thereof into their domestic legal system and to promote them as widely as possible within the framework of both military and civilian education. In the same way, under IHRL, States assume obligations to respect, protect and ensure the fulfilment of human rights. These obligations include putting in place domestic measures and legislation compatible with their treaty obligations.

But in order to be really effective, a successful prevention approach must go beyond modifying the legal system and spreading knowledge of the rules. Prevention entails fostering an environment conducive to respect for the lives and dignity of persons affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence.

ICRC operational experience shows that prevention approaches should include efforts to integrate the relevant norms into practical operational frameworks, thus translating knowledge into appropriate behaviour. Based on our understanding of the problems of humanitarian concern prevailing in several contexts, the ICRC attaches particular importance to the behaviour of weapon bearers and the implementation of IHL and IHRL applicable to the use of force. Greater respect for the law is possible only if bearers of weapons are properly trained, if they are under strict orders as to what conduct to adopt, and if effective sanctions are applied in the event of such orders being disobeyed.

The ICRC's prevention approach follows a particular logic, based on an understanding of why people behave the way they do and how best to influence them. Behaviour is shaped in part by particular environmental factors related to context-specific political, cultural, social and economic aspects. In line with our understanding of these factors, the ICRC strives to generate the conditions that would make the environment "conducive to respect". To do this, the ICRC engages at the local, regional and global levels with stakeholders who can exert a significant influence over the sources of a specific problem or the bodies dealing with an identified humanitarian concern.

The identification of the problem to be addressed is the key starting point of an effective prevention approach. The ICRC firmly believes that prevention has an important role to play in shaping, in each context, the multidisciplinary response to the needs of people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence.

As we share responsibility in this domain with other stakeholders, we are aware of the need to join with them in developing complementary measures, expanding partnerships and linking agendas. The ICRC is ready to continue to share its experience and engage in a sustained dialogue on prevention with the Human Rights Council, its members and its secretariat.