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.

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 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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NEWS AND UPCOMING EVENTS

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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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

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New Book by Professor Andrew Clapham Examines How the Concept of War Affects the Application of the Law

29 June 2021

In his new book War, our Former Director and Faculty Member Professor Andrew Clapham discusses the relevance of the concept of war today and examines how our notions about war continue to influence how we conceive rights and obligations in national and international law.

Read more

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Our Teaching Assistant Joshua Niyo Moves to UCLA School of Law to Finalize his Doctoral Research

24 February 2021

Joshua Niyo received a one-year Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) Doc.Mobility grant to spend a year at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law as Visiting Researcher.

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Basic Principles of International Humanitarian Law

29 September - 3 November 2021

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, examines the sources of international humanitarian law (IHL). It provides an introduction to the key principles and terminology of IHL.

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Ukraine, damaged bicycle and car in front of a destroyed building Short Course

Protection of Persons and Property in International Armed Conflict

10 November - 23 December 2021

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, examines the conduct of hostilities in situations of international armed conflict, also known as the Law of The Hague.

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Disruptive Military Technologies

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Via a new lecture series on disruptive military technologies, this project aims at staying abreast of the various military technology trends; promoting legal and policy debate on new military technologies; and furthering the understanding of the convergent effects of different technological trends shaping the digital battlefield of the future.

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Cover page of the book Publication

War

published on July 2021

Andrew Clapham

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