Seventy Years of the Geneva Conventions: How we Uphold Respect for International Humanitarian Law

Diplomatic Conference in Geneva leading to the signature of the 1949 Geneva Conventions Diplomatic Conference in Geneva leading to the signature of the 1949 Geneva Conventions

12 August 2019

The Geneva Conventions turn 70 today. As an academic institution, we work every day to uphold knowledge of and respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) and thus protect people affected by armed conflicts.

In the heart of international Geneva, at Villa Moynier – which was the property of Gustave Moynier, one of the founders and the first President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – we train young people, experts and practitioners, inform policy via cutting-edge legal research and policy studies, and organize events and expert meeting to discuss topical IHL issues and challenges.

While 70 years have passed, the Geneva Conventions still constitute the cornerstone of our work on IHL.

Our Director’s Message for the Geneva Conventions’ 70th Anniversary

In this opinion piece, our Director, Professor Marco Sassòli, notably recalls the role of the Geneva Academy in disseminating the basic messages of the Geneva Conventions and in clarifying their meaning in contemporary circumstances. He also addresses the current lack of an implementation mechanism that would enhance respect for IHL.

Our Post-Graduate Education: Disseminating the Key Messages of the Geneva Conventions

Every year, we train via our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict around 60 young people and 25 practitioners in IHL and the protection afforded by the Geneva Conventions to people affected by armed conflicts.

Cutting-Edge IHL Research: Informing Policy Decisions and Practitioners on the Ground

Our research examines IHL issues that are under-explored or need clarification and thus advances the understanding and stimulates debate in the academic community and in policy-making institutions and government. Our findings regularly inform policy recommendations and support practitioners working on IHL and humanitarian action and diplomacy.

The ICRC Online Casebook and More

Today, the ICRC published an anniversary highlight with examples we elaborated that illustrate the impact of the Geneva Conventions since their adoption. These examples form part of the ICRC online casebook to which our LLM students and our Director, Professor Marco Sassòli, regularly contribute.

Our collaboration with the ICRC goes well beyond this online casebook and includes collaborations around our research, events, training courses for academics and Geneva-based diplomats, as well as internships for our LLM students.

Expert Advice and Discussions on Current Challenges in Protecting Those Affected by Armed Conflicts – Including by Briefing the UN Security Council

We regularly convene expert meetings, seminars, conferences and events which provide a critical and scholarly forum for experts and practitioners to discuss and debate topical IHL issues and challenges.

Our experts are also regularly invited to provide advice to governments, international organizations and international courts and tribunals on key IHL topics.

Our Strategic Adviser on IHL, Dr Annyssa Bellal, has for instance been invited to brief tomorrow the UN Security Council in New York on the Geneva Conventions.

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