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A dangerously large gap

As illegal attacks on humanitarian workers and facilities continue, ICRC president Peter Maurer has reiterated the need to respect the 'laws of war' in practice as well as principle.

Friday May 27, 2016

Credit: ICRC

Speaking at the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul this week, Maurer observed the increased flouting of international humanitarian law (IHL) in various conflicts around the globe as a "dangerously large gap between discourse and practice".

"We still have a shot at making a different kind of history," he says. "This is where international humanitarian law can guide us - and future generations - through the dark times of war, to make the right choices when confronted with violence and hatred, with radical ideologies of exclusion and destruction."  

The UN-backed Summit, featuring contributions from numerous business and political leaders, aid agencies and civil groups, was held this week as an opportunity to "re-inspire and reinvigorate a commitment to humanity and to the universality of humanitarian principles". The gathering comes at a time when the laws of war have been increasingly disregarded during recent conflicts, with many aid agencies and personnel coming under direct attack as they attempt to render humanitarian assistance.

"IHL is principled but also pragmatic and practical: it does not rule out war, it sets limits to its conduct, thereby recognizing the very real dilemma of finding the balance between military necessity and humanitarian imperative," Maurer continued. "Commitments must be followed by concrete actions and a profound change of behaviour on all sides.

The people suffering in wars deserve nothing less than actions that will protect their lives and dignity."

Find out more about the laws of war