27 September 2017 18:00 - 19:45

Changing the narrative on IHL

About the event


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On 27 September 2017, the ICRC will convene a live-streamed panel of experts at the Humanitarium to discuss how to change the narrative on IHL, by thinking of new ways of talking about IHL. Based on the promotion of instances of respect, the panel will reflect on new approaches and initiatives to reaffirm the relevance and usefulness of IHL and improve respect for it. The event is part of ICRC's Conference Cycle on Generating respect for the law

Due to the room's limited capacity all participants are invited to arrive on time. The conference will be live-streamed on this page. 


On this occasion, the ICRC will launch the "IHL in Action: Respect for the Law on the Battlefield" database, which compiles real life instances of compliance with the law. The project is designed to provide some factual evidence that helps reframe the perception of IHL being an ineffective set of rules, by showcasing situations in which the law is actually respected.


One of the conclusions drawn from ICRC Conference Cycle on Generating respect for the law is that the issue surrounding respect for IHL is not so much one of substance of the norms but rather one of perception. There is more of IHL than ever before, and expectations around IHL compliance are growing. At the same time, there is a general feeling of pessimism in discussing respect for IHL, as violations are ever-present in international media, while situations where the law is respected rarely make the news. This contributes to the misconception that IHL does not serve its purpose.

This negative perception of IHL undermines its actual influence, and banalizes violations to the point where non-respect for the most fundamental norms may be accepted as an inevitable feature of war. It is thus important to demonstrate that reality is more nuanced and that IHL does have an impact. The law is often violated and respected in the same context, and evidence of parties to a conflict respecting IHL is observed daily in conflict situations.


  • Vincent Bernard, Editor-in-Chief of the International Review of the Red Cross, ICRC


  • H.E. Ambassador Beatriz Londoño Soto, Permanent Representation of Colombia, United Nations
  • Dr. Helen Durham, Director of International Law and Policy, ICRC
  • Dr. Robert Heinsch, Assoc. Prof, Grotius Center for International Legal Studies / Kalshoven-Gieskes Forum on International Humanitarian Law, Leiden University
  • Michael Schmitt, Professor of International Law, University of Exeter, Charles H. Stockton Professor, Stockton Center, US Naval War College


Date & Time

27 September 2017 18:00 - 19:45

Venue address

17 avenue de la paix, 1202 Geneva