This was the topic of a joint Australian Red Cross and Centre for Humanitarian Leadership symposium held in Melbourne on 17 October 2019. The event brought together humanitarian practitioners, academics and others to contribute to this dialogue.
The symposium aimed to promote understanding in the Australian context of what protections exist in IHL, what constitutes good practice in access negotiations, what support is available, and the challenges we should be working collectively to address. The event was inspired by the 2018 State of the Humanitarian System report, which identified three trends:
These findings are concerning because IHL contains important protections for humanitarian access. If the laws are not understood or used, then this is a missed opportunity. This is particularly relevant to Australian Red Cross, which works with Australian organisations operating in conflict contexts to promote IHL best practice’.
Despite a focus on practical approaches and meaningful compromise, there were important and encouraging points of consensus. These points related to the continuing relevance of humanitarian principles and legal frameworks for humanitarian assistance in armed conflict.
During the symposium, the Humanitarian Advisory Group also shared the results of new research, Gaining Traction: Measuring the Impact of IHL Training. Prepared for Australian Red Cross, the report looks at the impact of training humanitarian practitioners in IHL and humanitarian principles.
The research builds an evidence base for how IHL and humanitarian principles training translates to humanitarian outcomes. Through five key findings and targeted recommendations, the report encourages a conversation about how to improve humanitarian outcomes through strengthened approaches to IHL and humanitarian principles capacity building.
Based on interviews and surveys, the research found that: