Geneva, Switzerland, 9-12 December 2019
“International Humanitarian Law: protecting people in armed conflict"
My delegation shares the views expressed in the statement delivered by the European Union on behalf of the EU and its Member States and would like to highlight other elements in its national capacity.
When military operations are planned to avoid collateral damage to a school or a hospital, IHL is at play. When local populations under military control are treated humanely by the occupying power, IHL is a play. When a prisoner of war is permitted to have a letter delivered by the ICRC to his or her family, IHL is at play.
Such stories of the success of humanity never make headlines but the mediatization of International Humanitarian Law violations must not make us forget that those successful stories exist, every day, and that they are the result of compliance with International Humanitarian Law.
Portugal pays tribute to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the National Societies and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, as well as to the members of their staff and volunteers. Their work embodies the Fundamental Principles of Humanity, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality.
Seventy years after their adoption, the Geneva Conventions are the backbone of today’s International Humanitarian Law. They are among the most ratified treaties in the world, although their implementation by parties to armed conflicts fails to be as universal as their acceptance.
The most pressing problems in the implementation of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols relate to both old and new challenges – from State capacity to adequately train and supervise their armed forces on IHL matters to new means and methods of warfare and new actors in armed conflict.
Portugal is deeply concerned by the tendencies underlined in the latest ICRC Report on Challenges of Contemporary Armed Conflicts. The urbanization of armed conflicts impairs the protection of civilians against the effects of hostilities, particularly during sieges or when certain weapons are used. We condemn all forms of violence against civilians and welcome efforts for better coordination among humanitarian actors and other relevant stakeholders.
A universal effort for the promotion and protection of International Humanitarian Law demands the commitment of each and every member of this Movement. We welcome the call for national ownership in the effective implementation of IHL, as contained in one of the resolutions entitled “Bringing IHL home”, currently discussed at this Conference. Portugal and the Portuguese Red Cross will adopt a pledge aiming at establishing a national committee on IHL to foster national coordination and a better implementation.
My delegation is pleased to announce today that Portugal has decided to significantly raise its voluntary contribution to cover several ongoing humanitarian crises before the end of this year. This is a sign of Portugal’s profound trust in humanitarian action and of its support for the mandate of assistance and protection of the International Committee as provided for by the Geneva Conventions.
Current challenges to International Humanitarian Law call for action. Our common commitment to honour our obligations under IHL, in defence of victims of current armed conflicts and to the benefit of future generations, has to be permanently renewed on occasions such as this. The protection of human beings caught up in hostilities depends on that common commitment and on effective, innovative and coordinated responses from every addressee of the obligations contained in the Geneva Conventions and in customary IHL.
Portugal is committed to continue to play an active role in those responses.
I thank you, Madam President.