Editorial: Time to take prevention seriously

21 December 2015 Vincent Bernard

The International Review of the Red Cross seeks to address urgent humanitarian issues, with a view to offering solutions: beyond the necessary repressive or remedial measures, it is striking to note how many contributions in our pages actually point to the need to prevent certain patterns of violence and even put a halt to human suffering. These are not only calls for respect of human life and dignity; often, authors include practical suggestions on ways to achieve it. For instance, recent international efforts to address the issues of violence against health care and sexual violence in armed conflict have put forward a series of measures that States and non-State actors3 can put in place to translate the relevant legal provisions into practice, train relevant personnel on that basis, or educate the public at large.

There is a growing realization that it is necessary to put a special emphasis on efforts to prevent violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and other applicable norms in armed conflict. How can we ensure that respect for human life and dignity remains a common concern shared by the opposing parties? More specifically, how does one generate respect for the law in times of war? What are the tools and strategies for influencing the behaviour of those participating in war, and of political decision-makers? 

With this issue, the Review wants to take stock of the lessons learnt in the field of influencing behaviour and developing strategies for enhanced respect for the law and, more generally, to recall the importance of taking preventive measures to avoid the loss of the lives, livelihoods and prospects of entire generations.

About the author

Vincent Bernard

Vincent Bernard

Vincent BERNARD is editor in chief of the International Review of the Red Cross, a leading academic journal on humanitarian law, policy and action published by the ICRC and Cambridge University Press. He is also the head of the Law and Policy Forum, which leads ICRC’s engagement with expert audiences interested in teaching, researching and debating international humanitarian law (IHL). The unit runs the Humanitarium conference center in Geneva, the new Humanitarian Law and Policy blog, the IHL online training center etc. Vincent joined the ICRC in 1998 and worked in the field for 6 years in Dakar, Nairobi and Jerusalem. As head of the ICRC’s field communication set-up from 2006 to 2010 he travelled and worked in most of ICRC’s operational contexts. Prior to joining the organization, Vincent studied political science, law and international relations at the Political Science Institute and Law Faculty in Strasburg, The King’s College, London and the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, and taught law at the University of Marmara in Istanbul.