International Humanitarian Law and the United Nations Security Council

Started in January 2020

The past few years have seen an increase in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)’s focus on international humanitarian law (IHL), a trend that started before and goes beyond the 2019 commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. In 2019, the UNSC notably adopted resolutions on missing persons in armed conflict, as well as on the situation of persons with disabilities in armed conflict and humanitarian emergencies (resolutions 2474 and 2475, respectively).

However, contrary to other thematic issues such as the rule of law or individual criminal accountability, little attention has been paid to the consistency – or lack thereof – of the UNSC’s practice in relation to IHL.

Objectives

Resulting from traditional legal research and informal interviews – to the extent feasible – with experts (scholars, diplomats, as well as representatives of the United Nations (UN), NGOs, and relevant international organizations), this project aims at critically assessing how the UNSC has recently dealt with IHL.

Activities

The project’s work has so far been divided into two phases, each corresponding to the calendar years 2020 and 2021.

  • Drawing from the UNSC’s recent practice as well as from identifiable legal and/or political dynamics, the work undertaken in 2020 particularly focused on the potential positive influence of the organ’s elected members (the so-called ‘E10’). It notably formulated recommendations to policy-makers working with this organ to ensure consistency in addressing IHL issues.
  • The work undertaken in 2021 aims at assessing whether – and, if so, how – mandating UN peacekeeping operations contributes to ensuring respect for IHL in the sense of article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. It will notably highlight elements worth considering by members of the UNSC who contemplate using peacekeeping for promoting respect for this legal framework.

NEWS AND UPCOMING EVENTS

UNMISS Peacekeepers News

New Working Paper Examines the Role of Peacekeeping Operations in Ensuring Respect for IHL

5 October 2021

The UN Security Council and Common Article 1: Understanding the Role of Peacekeeping Operations in Ensuring Respect for IHL examines the applicability of article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 – on the obligation to respect and ensure respect for IHL – to the UN, with a specific focus on peacekeeping operations.

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A view of the UN Security Council News

New Briefing Examines the Promotion of IHL at the UN Security Council

12 November 2020

Our new Briefing assesses the UN Security Council’s recent engagement with international humanitarian law and accountability.

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A man enters the room of the UN Security Council News

New Research Project Focuses on How the United Nations Security Council deals with IHL

2 April 2020

This research will analyse how the UN Security Council has recently dealt with international humanitarian law (IHL) and formulate a series of recommendations to policy-makers working with this organ to ensure consistency in addressing IHL issues.

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RESEARCHERS

Portrait of Emilie Max

Émilie Max

Researcher

Émilie Max's research focuses s on the intersection between international humanitarian law and international human rights law

OUTPUT

An Assessment of the UN Security Council's Engagement with IHL

The publication Room for Manoeuvre? Promoting International Humanitarian Law and Accountability While at the United Nations Security Council: A Reflection on the Role of Elected Members assesses the UN Security Council’s (UNSC) recent engagement with international humanitarian law (IHL) in relation to the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict agenda, other relevant thematic agenda items (Children and Armed Conflict and Women, Peace and Security, respectively), as well as counterterrorism measures and sanctions regimes.

The publication offers a set of guiding questions, framed in very general terms, to ensure and develop a principled IHL engagement in the formulation of policies at the UNSC.

It was launched both in Geneva and New York during an online IHL Talk that addressed the substantial and/or procedural challenges to the effective and principled promotion of IHL at the UNSC, including from a State’s perspective.

Publications

Cover of the publication

The UN Security Council and Common Article 1: Understanding the Role of Peacekeeping Operations in Ensuring Respect for IHL

October 2021

Émilie Max

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights; Geneva Call

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Cover page of the Briefing

Room for Manoeuvre? Promoting International Humanitarian Law and Accountability While at the United Nations Security Council: A Reflection on the Role of Elected Members

October 2020

Émilie Max

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Past Events

Sisyphean Task: Promoting International Law while at the United Nations Security Council

28 January 2021, 15:00-16:30

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MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

UNMISS Peacekeepers News

New Working Paper Examines the Role of Peacekeeping Operations in Ensuring Respect for IHL

5 October 2021

The UN Security Council and Common Article 1: Understanding the Role of Peacekeeping Operations in Ensuring Respect for IHL examines the applicability of article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 – on the obligation to respect and ensure respect for IHL – to the UN, with a specific focus on peacekeeping operations.

Read more

Portrait of Collins Odhiambo News

Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict: What Participants Say

1 June 2021

Collins Odhiambo is a Captain in the Kenyan Air Force and just completed a one-and-a-half-year assignment with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). In this interview, he tells about the programme, distance learning and what it brings to his daily work.

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 Taliban fighters on a truck in Kabul, August 17 2021 Event

Afghanistan

28 October 2021, 15:00-16:00

This online IHL talk aims at shining light on some of the many legal, political and protection-related challenges stemming from the situation in Afghanistan.

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Destroyed buildings in Harasta, Syria Event

2021 Current Issues in Armed Conflict Conference

19 November 2021, 14:00-17:30

The 2021 edition will address two contemporary challenges and issues related to armed conflict: the classification of non-international armed conflicts in which a myriad of armed non-state actors are involved; and cyber conflicts.

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The International Court of Justice in session Short Course

Sources of Public International Law

27 October - 8 December 2021

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, looks at the sources from which public international law rules stem and at the entities that are empowered with the capacity of law-making in the international legal order. It aims at enabling participants to develop a global perception of the international normative system.

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Short Course

The Law of Non-International Armed Conflicts

17 March - 8 April 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, discusses the protection offered by international humanitarian law (IHL) in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) and addresses some problems and controversies specific to IHL of NIACs, including the difficulty to ensure the respect of IHL by armed non-state actors.

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A wheelchair completely destroyed after the bombing of a civilian area Project

Disability and Armed Conflict

Started in May 2016

This project aims to ensure better protection of and assistance for persons with disabilities in situations of armed conflict or its aftermath by identifying legal obligations to protect and assist persons with disabilities during conflict, and the policies and practices required to put these obligations into effect.

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On the screen, on the screen is Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), briefing the Security Council on the 70th Anniversary of Geneva Conventions. Project

International Humanitarian Law and the United Nations Security Council

Started in January 2020

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Cover of the publication Publication

The UN Security Council and Common Article 1: Understanding the Role of Peacekeeping Operations in Ensuring Respect for IHL

published on October 2021

Émilie Max

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