Why international humanitarian law compliance should be universal

Since the second World War, armed conflict between nations have waned, but a comparative rise in the internal conflicts within countries continue to be a scourge of humanity.

Unfortunately, breaches in the observance of IHL continues to be perpetrated by both state and non-state actors. These violations become fodder for news reports, and they are truly a cause of concern. They must be addressed with every resource at our disposal.

National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, assisted by the IFRC, are best positioned to mitigate the impact of armed conflict on civilian populations and to promote the fundamental principles of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement to foster trust and confidence vis-vis safe access to the vulnerable.

Being part of the community and the state where they have a presence, National Soci​e​ties perform an auxiliary function to the authorities in their various localities. And that is where we can make the most difference as we promote engagement and understanding of the situation on the ground so that we can reach all parties to a conflict and encourage them to be compliant with IHL even as war or armed conflict rages.

Humane treatment of one another

Finally, all of us, especially our leaders must exhibit the wisdom to see that as technology advances, and the lethality of our weapons of war exponentially increase, so must our understanding of what it means to be humane even in a time of war.

We are at a point now in our history when we actually have the power in our hands to destroy our world, including ourselves. In a short time, we have developed nuclear weapons, chemical and biological agents, and the means to unleash these deadly weapons that cannot distinguish combatants from civilians, military targets, ​to ​non-military targets that tend to affect the largest possible number of people who are not party to the conflict.

With the advent of drone strikes, these weapons can be dropped anywhere in the world at a touch of a button by someone who is far away from where the action takes place. Humanity is no longer fighting in the trenches, face to face, but using modern means of warfare to inflict harm on each other vicariously. Dehumanization in the modern battlefield is as much a cause of concern as the actual wars that continue to be fought in the modern world.

Our capacity for wisdom and humane treatment of one another even in times of war or armed conflict must outpace our capacity to create weapons of mass destruction and our seeming willingness to use them against one another. That is the only way we can pull back humanity from the brink of destruction. – Rappler.com

Gwen Pang, the former Secretary General of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), now heads the East Asia Country Cluster for the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC). IFRC seeks to promote the advancement of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).  

By virtue of Executive Order No. 134 (1999), every 12th day of August in the Philippines is designated as International Humanitarian Law Day. IHL Day is held to commemorate  the signing of the 1949 Geneva Convention.