In 2005, the Council of the EU adopted the EU Guidelines on Promoting Compliance with International Humanitarian Law. Updated in 2009 with the aim of achieving a more systematic approach, they reflect the need for better integration of IHL in every external aspect of the EU’s action and better implementation of it. Their aim is to put in place an oversight mechanism of IHL, in contrast with human rights where such instruments have already been already developed.
The EU Guidelines were designed with two objectives: First, assisting any officer in the EU Foreign Service in the decision-making process; Second, possible action to take. The Guidelines underline the EU’s commitment to promoting compliance with IHL and provide the EU’s main tools in its relations with third states. These operational tools are: political dialogue, general public statements, demarches, restrictive measures, cooperation with other international bodies, including UN and relevant regional organisations and the ICRC, crisis-management operations, individual criminal responsibility and training.
On 8 September, the fourth report on the Implementation of the EU Guidelines on Promoting Compliance with IHL was publicly launched for the first time at a virtual event organised by Slovenia and Portugal, the two Council Presidencies in 2021. The event, aimed at raising awareness of the EU’s activities in IHL, brought together more than a hundred participants from all over the world. The panellists, including the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the representative of the European External Action Service and the European Commission, agreed that only coherent, coordinated, complementary and mutually reinforcing actions can contribute to effective compliance with IHL on the ground.
Slovenia promotes dissemination, implementation and respect for IHL at the domestic level through regular consultations between the Slovenian and German IHL committees. In 2021, the experts of the ICRC significantly enriched these consultations with their expertise. Doctors without Borders joined the discussion for the first time.
These consultations were held in accordance with the resolution adopted at the 33rd Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent titled “Bringing IHL Home” and addressed contemporary IHL issues. These issues were: attacks against medical and humanitarian personnel, challenges of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission and the UN Human Rights Committee, protection of media professionals in armed conflicts and spreading of IHL knowledge at the domestic level.
On 16 and 17 November 2021, during its presidency of the EU Council, Slovenia organised for the first time regional consultations in accordance with the resolution “Bringing IHL Home.” These consultations brought together the Slovenian, Austrian, Dutch, French and German IHL Committees and the MFA of Portugal. Dr Helen am, Director of International Law and Policy of ICRC was a keynote speaker.
The chairpersons of the five national IHL committees compared the mandates, tasks, composition and challenges of their committees. The second panel addressed the topics of climate change and armed conflicts from the political, scientific and humanitarian perspectives. The final panel focused on the protection of the environment during and after armed conflicts. The panellists underlined that the environment is often directly attacked or incidentally affected in the course of military operations. The regional legal adviser of the ICRC underlined the aim and main elements of the ICRC updated Guidelines on the Protection of the Natural Environment in Armed Conflict.
This event was an excellent opportunity for the promotion of ITF Enhancing Human Security, a Slovenian institution established in in 1998. It is a humanitarian, non-governmental organisation with its headquarters in Ljubljana. ITF has regional offices in Erbil, Kabul, Tripoli, Bishkek and Sarajevo. It has more than 400 donors, of which 31 state donors financially support its activities. The Ottawa Convention represents the main basis for ITF’s activities in Afghanistan, North East Syria, Libya, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and elsewhere.
Armed conflicts can lead to environmental degradation and destruction and contamination of soil and land, with effects extending to coastal and marine zones and water sources. These consequences of conflicts can remain in place for years after armed conflict.
ITF’s activities in the framework of human security are:
- Clearance of landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) is imperative for human security, particularly the right to life. Further, it is a precondition for displaced people to return to their homes and re-establishment of infrastructure.
- assistance to landmine victims (care, rehabilitation and reintegration),
- risk education on landmines and ERW,
- stockpile management of weapons and ammunition in an environmentally responsible way,
- destruction of conventional weapons in an environmentally friendly way,
- risk education programme among the local population, particularly women and children.
The consultations promoted and strengthened the role and work of five National IHL Committees and cooperation between them. In addition, Slovenia finds the consultations between these national IHL committees to be an excellent tool for the exchange of good practices, experiences and lessons learned.