Closing remarks at “Reclaiming the Protection of Civilians under International Humanitarian Law"

Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide's Closing remarks at “Reclaiming the Protection of Civilians under International Humanitarian Law".

 

Recommendations and Conclusions

Dear Co-Chairs, dear participants,

As we now gather to wrap-up this Conference, let me start by thanking you all for your contributions to our discussions. In particular, I would like to thank all the panellists, as well as our co-chairs from Argentina, Austria, Indonesia and Uganda for all their hard work.

Over the last two days, we have discussed a number of the most pressing challenges we face in our efforts to improve the protection of civilians in armed conflict. As I predicted during the opening, discussions have shown that we do not agree on everything we have discussed. This is only natural. Present here today is a great number of different States, international organisations, civil society and media representatives. All have different roles to fill, different mandates and different agendas.

However, as I also stated in the opening speech; I believe the discussions clearly show that we all agree on one thing; the urgent need to increase our efforts to reclaim the protection of civilians under IHL. And our discussions have shown that there are a great number of practical measures that can be taken to achieve this.

In the present Co-Chairs summary, the group of Co-Chairs have tried their best to gather some of the measures and recommendations that have gathered broad support in the discussions. I would like to thank all who have contributed your comments to this paper.

As we have already indicated, it has not been possible to take all proposals into account in the document that is now being distributed to you all. This would simply not be practically possible. However, I would like to stress that many of the ideas and proposals received were very good. Although we have not found the necessary basis in the discussions to include all proposals in this particular instrument, we would strongly encourage you to continue work on all these areas in the time to come.

For those of you who might disagree with particular points in the present document, I would also again stress that this is not a binding document. The document is drafted under the sole responsibility of the group of Co-Chairs, and represents an overview of practical recommendations and measures which have seemed to enjoy broad support in the room.

However, it is my strong belief that the paper now contains a number of recommendations and measures that I believe may contribute significantly to improving the situation for civilians affected by armed conflicts.

And it is my sincere hope that both the discussions over the last two days, as well as this paper, will be of use to you in your continued work to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict. I also hope that you will all work to continue the development of these, as well as other measures.

I will now proceed to go through some of the main elements of the Co-Chairs’ Summary.

The Co-Chairs' Summary
In Session I, discussion focused on measures aimed at reducing the harm to civilians in military operations.

The recommendations include measures to ensure that all legal obligations are being respected and reflected in all relevant doctrines and procedures, and that relevant personnel are given the education that is needed to ensure that IHL is being respected in practice.

They also focus on practical steps to be taken in military operations to ensure that existing IHL obligations, including the fundamental rules of distinction and proportionality, are respected.

This part of the recommendations also focuses on additional steps that may be taken by parties to conflicts, over and beyond what is strictly required by existing IHL obligations. These recommendations are based on practical measures that have proved to be effective in order to reduce the harm caused to civilians.

In Session II, we discussed the significant contributions to the protection of civilians made by humanitarian actors.

The recommendations focus on different ways to ensure that humanitarian actors are given rapid and unimpeded access to all those in need of protection and assistance.

Among other things, this includes ensuring that the work of humanitarian workers is not hindered by unnecessary bureaucratic burdens or by legal impediments such as counter-terrorism regulations.

In addition, it means that those working to provide much needed humanitarian assistance, are themselves provided the protection they need to carry out their work.

Session III focused on ways to promote compliance with IHL among those parties to conflicts who do not operate in accordance with the rules – be they State or Non-State Actors.

Here it has been emphasized that States have an obligation not only to respect, but also to ensure respect for IHL, and that they should do their utmost to encourage states and other parties to armed conflicts to comply with IHL.

The recommendations in this area include practical ways States, as well as organisations, may work to achieve increased respect for IHL among such actors.

Session IV focused on how proper documentation of the conduct of military operations may be ensured, and how journalists and other media actors reporting from conflict areas are protected, and that their right to exercise their work is respected.

The recommendations include measures to ensure that all relevant information on the conduct of military operations is recorded. This includes the types and locations of explosive weapons used and other relevant information is recorded, and to the extent possible shared with humanitarian organisations carrying out humanitarian efforts post-conflict. The recommendations also include practical measures to ensure the reliability of information gathered by civilian actors.

In Session V, we discussed different ways to ensure that those accountable for violations of the rules are held accountable.

Recommendations under this chapter include measures to ensure that States are able to conduct the necessary criminal investigations and prosecutions against possible perpetrators. The recommendations also include measures to ensure that fact-finding and accountability mechanisms are effective.

***

Dear participants,

This concludes my summary of the recommendations in the Co-Chairs Summary. I would like to stress once more that this is not a legal document and it is not binding on the participating States.

I would now like to go on to make a few remarks on the possible follow-up of this initiative.

As the time available in this Conference has been very limited, it is also my hope that you will all seek to find ways to continue this kind of dialogue that we’ve shared here over the last two days, on a national and regional, as well as on the global level. On our part, we are currently looking into how this dialogue may be continued, and we are already planning to gather interested States and organisations to an informal meeting in Geneva this coming autumn, in order to discuss how this could be organised.

In addition, we know that a number of other States and organisations are either currently engaged in, or in the process of planning, other initiatives. I have on my list a number of speakers, who would like to take this opportunity to inform other States and organisations present about their initiatives. I will now like to give the floor to our Co-Chairs.

***


Dear all participants,

Thank you all for this very useful information. We have now come to the very end of this Conference, and all that is left for me is to thank you all again for all your efforts, and the contributions made by each of you in making this a very interesting and useful Conference.

And I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the conference organisers, the staff, and last – but not least – all our volunteers taking time out of their busy schedules to help making this Conference a success.

Thank you everyone. I wish you all the best of luck with your future efforts in Reclaiming the Protection of Civilians under IHL, and wish those of you who are leaving Oslo safe travels back to your capitals.

***

The final document (the Co-Chairs summary of recommendations) was distributed in the conference hall in the beginning of the last session.

 

 

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