Humanitarian Networks and Partnership Week 2019

4-8 February 2019

Consultative Group on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination Annual Plenary

7 February 2019 08:30-17:30 

UN-CMCoord Consultative Group Plenary Summary

UN-CMCoord Consultative Group Plenary Agenda

190215 Summary of the CG 2019 FINAL v0.4.pdf
UN-CMCoord 2019 Annual Plenary Meeting Agenda.pdf

UN-CMCoord Thematic Sessions

Practical Approaches to Improve Fighter And Combatant Behavior


Practical Approaches to Improve Fighter and Combatant Behavior

6 February 2019

Moderator: Prof Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy and Professor of International Law at the University of Geneva


International Humanitarian Law (IHL) sets out what can and what cannot be done during an armed conflict, essentially balancing two aspects: limiting suffering and weakening the enemy. Current armed conflicts are complex. They involve a number of state and non-state armed actors. They are marked by violations of the rules of war. The panel brought together humanitarians, military and academics to discuss approaches to foster IHL in the current operating environment. Which initiatives exist? What triggers fighters and combatants to respect the rules of war?

There is no one size fits all. Armed forces and armed groups vary in their organizational structure and in their openness to external influence. A detailed understanding of the armed actors is necessary to identify the sources of authority, the beliefs, the values, the traditions that might steer violence, or might foster restraint and respect to the rules of war. ICRC presented the “Roots of Restraint in War” research, which analyses these questions. The report identifies sources of influence. IHL training, knowledge of the law and integrating the law into doctrine remain important. The research also found that peers can have a strong influence on behavior. The research suggests that ICRC would extend its work into addressing informal influence, such as rituals and depiction of the enemy. There are a number of approaches linked to these findings, including tactical scenarios and virtual reality training. 

The overall goal of the OCHA CMCoord engagement in Northeast Nigeria is improving access, fostering distinction in a complex and militarized environment, and improving respect for humanitarian operations. The ongoing engagement with the Nigerian armed forces confirms that it takes time to build trust. Over time, the engagement and training develops empathy and a goodwill towards the humanitarians. It is a responsibility for all humanitarian staff to adhere to humanitarian principles, to walk the talk and to engage in a principled manner with all parties to the conflict. 

NATO’s Protection of Civilians (PoC) approach is comprehensive and consists of three interlinked elements: 1) mitigate harm, 2) contribute to a safe and secure environment and 3) facilitate access to basic needs. NATO’s PoC policy was adopted in 2016. Besides the moral and legal obligations, PoC has strategic implications. PoC aims at contributing to achieving mission success. 

Geneva Call is a Geneva based NGO that works specifically with NSAGs, promoting adherence to IHL. Geneva Call developed a number of tools. These tools include the Fighter not Killer Campaign and deeds of commitment on for example protection of children, which are signed by armed groups in Geneva, and subsequently monitored. To date Geneva Call has engaged about 120 NSAGs. This approach is successful with the traditional NSAGs, which have a political agenda, a centralized chain of command, control territory and administer population. Limits are where groups reject IHL or where violation is part of the strategy. 

These limitations and other elements, such as the influence of religious and community leaders and the need for knowledge management to capture what works where, and what does not and why not, needs to be further explored.  

The Future of Emergency Response in Conflict Settings: The Role for Emergency Medical Teams and Other Rapid Response Teams

Session outcomes

•  Outcome 1 : A deeper understanding of being better prepared and tackling key issues including the need for  principled humanitarian action to protect access and humanitarian space and the imperative to save lives is critical not only for medical teams responding in conflict settings but also other rapid response teams

• Outcome 2 : Acceptance by and engagement  with  people affected by war and crises is key to reaching communities.  Perceptions of the conduct and behaviour of medical teams matter and have global implications.  

• Outcome 3: Given the diversity of views on principled humanitarian action, there is need for more open and honest discussion that includes non-traditional actors and representatives from nations affected by conflict and protracted crises.

Next steps to implementing solutions

•  Next step 1: plan a wider and more inclusive consultation process to develop the guidance document for medical teams preparing for and responding to armed conflict and complex emergencies; also known as the “Red Book”

• Next step 2: Create a peer review and co-writing group composed of experts with relevant background with the aim to support, steer, co-author, and review the drafting of the Red Book.  

• Next step 3: engage with other rapid response teams and relevant networks that face similar issues and share experiences/challenges

 International Conference Center (CICG), Geneva