The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Humanitarian Law & Policy blog is a unique space for timely analysis and debate on international humanitarian law (IHL) issues and the policies that shape humanitarian action.
The transmission of information by the ICRC's Central Tracing Agency in int't armed conflicts
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11:48Two years ago, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Central Tracing Agency activated a dedicated Bureau for the international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the first time since the Gulf Wars. The role of such a Bureau includes helping locate missing persons. While this is a key function of the ICRC’s Central Tracing Agency, there is more to its role specifically during an international armed conflict that is worth re-discovering. In this post, Natalie Klein-Kelly, ICRC’s Transformation Programme Manager for the Central Tracing Agency, Karen Loehner, ICRC’s National Information Bureau Manager, and Jelena Milosevic Lepotic, Head of Protection of Family Links unit, share their reflections on the contemporary relevance and the historical origins of the ICRC’s Central Tracing Agency. They show the importance of reviving certain activities, such as the transmission of information on protected persons between the parties, that is specific to this type of conflict that humanitarian actors may be less used to operating in, following past decades that were dominated by non-international armed conflicts and other situations of violence.
From content to harm: how harmful information contributes to civilian harm
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14:02From traditional media to social media, coordinated information campaigns or operations, the ways in which harmful information can enable or aggravate risks of harm for civilians are constantly evolving. However, evidence of risk factors remains incomplete, and solutions elusive. In this post, Chris Brew, a former Protection Associate with the ICRC, looks to previous examples of harmful information (often referred to as misinformation, disinformation and hate speech or “MDH”) resulting in civilian harm to identify patterns in underlying risk factors to inform when and in what circumstances civilian harm may result from such information.
Towards national implementation of IHL: Arab states pledge their commitment
9:50The work and contribution of national committees on IHL (NCIHLs) can be relevant in a range of circumstances, whether a country is at peace, emerging from conflict, still affected by past conflict or involved in one or more current armed conflicts. Many successful national structures are proof that if they function efficiently and have the required capacities, NCIHLs can provide considerable support to states in implementing their commitments under international humanitarian law (IHL) and achieving policy objectives in this area. The roads to national implementation of IHL can vary, creating new opportunities through events that arise, and actors encountered along the way. In this post, Yasmin Bedir, ICRC Communications Officer for the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries, provides a recap of the Twelfth Regional Meeting of Arab National Committees on IHL. The meeting, run with contributions from Dr Omar Mekky, Regional Legal Coordinator for the Near and Middle East Region at the ICRC, resulted in a dynamic two-year action plan with pledged commitments on specific themes and obligations for the implementation of IHL.
Responding to the humanitarian impacts of improvised anti-personnel mines
16:57Though remarkable progress has been made towards the eradication of anti-personnel landmines (APM) since the adoption of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) in 1997, casualties from APM are, alarmingly, on the rise, including due to the increased use of improvised APM, mostly associated with non-state actors. Whereas efforts to counter the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) tend to centre on military and security approaches, improvised APM are a type of IED whose devastating humanitarian impacts can and must be addressed through humanitarian mine action and within the framework of the APMBC. In this post, Josephine Dresner, Director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships with the humanitarian mine action organisation Mine Advisory Group (MAG), points to the challenges facing states contaminated with improvised landmines in the Sahel and West Africa. Drawing on lessons learned from MAG’s work in the Middle East since 2016, she presents elements of a humanitarian mine action response to addressing improvised mines and explains how the APMBC can be used to support affected states in their efforts to fulfil their obligations under the Convention.
Unblocking aid: the EU’s 2023 shift in sanctions policy to safeguard humanitarian efforts
17:40The year 2023 marked a significant shift in how the EU makes space for humanitarian action in the design of sanctions, a foreign policy tool that has traditionally raised concerns due to its potential to hinder impartial humanitarian efforts. Mounting evidence and advocacy on the need for sanctions to include robust humanitarian safeguards to comply with international humanitarian law requirements resulted in the December 2022 adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2664, which explicitly excludes humanitarian action from UN financial sanctions, initiating a transformative approach towards incorporating humanitarian exemptions in sanctions design. In this post, ICRC Advisers Sophie Huvé, Guillemette Moulin and Tristan Ferraro explore progress made in recent years at the EU level, as well as the remaining challenges. They suggest that the EU’s recent policy changes, aligning with UN Security Council Resolution 2664, should be set as a default in future sanctions designs, ensuring that humanitarian action is protected and facilitated within the framework of international humanitarian law (IHL).
Victim/survivor-centeredness, data protection and open-source collection: lessons from IIIM-Syria
12:22The extent to which a victim/survivor-centered approach (VSCA) should be incorporated into data protection remains an emerging issue for accountability actors. What does a VSCA look like when collecting data through open-source channels, for example? On a technical level, it means having processes in place to secure and govern data. On a human level, it means recognizing the rights of victims/survivors, building trust among historically marginalized and undervalued communities, and mitigating risks to individuals whose data is entrusted to our care. In this post, part of a new series on Cybersecurity and data protection in humanitarian action, IIIM-Syria Associate Legal Officer Rayyan Ghuma and Information and Evidence Officer Birhane Wossen Reta delve into areas of concern at the intersection of victim/survivor-centeredness, data protection, and open-source collection. They ultimately draw upon the IIIM experience to continue an ongoing conversation about data protection and the VSCA in inclusive accountability.
Online violence: real life impacts on women and girls in humanitarian settings
15:47Online violence is not contained by the digital sphere – it is killing women and adolescent girls in offline spaces. It seeps into their daily lives, infecting their psychological and physical well-being and resulting in paranoia, shame, isolation, and even leading to their deaths through honor killing, murder, and suicide. In this post, part of a new series on Cybersecurity and data protection in humanitarian action, Megan O’Brien, from the International Rescue Committee’s Violence Prevention and Response Unit, summarizes her discussions with GBV experts and her review of the existing literature to better understand the impact online violence and technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV) has on women and girls in emergency and conflict settings.
Not child’s play: protecting children’s data in humanitarian AI ecosystems
11:02In times of crisis and conflict, advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) might become as much part of the problem as the solution. An ever-growing number of children in need risk having their data used as part of AI systems that do not implement safeguards and protections for vulnerable populations. Given the short- and long-term consequences for the first generations to grow up with AI, there is an urgent need to scrutinize AI-powered systems that are not aligned with the rights, needs, and realities of children in humanitarian action. In this post, part of a series on Cybersecurity and data protection in humanitarian action, Roxana Radu, Associate Professor of Digital Technologies and Public Policy at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, and Eugenia Olliaro, Programme Specialist at UNICEF’s Chief Data Office and the global UNICEF lead of the Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) initiative, make three recommendations for the humanitarian sector to become children-centred in the age of AI.
Mobile phones for participation: building responsible public-private humanitarian partnerships
15:41Mobile phones are a powerful tool for participation and engagement in humanitarian crises. Responsible public/private partnerships are increasingly unleashing their potential. In this post, part of a new series on Cybersecurity and data protection in humanitarian action, Susanna Acland and Barnaby Willitts-King from the GSMA Mobile for Humanitarian Innovation programme outline the private sector perspective on this important trend.
Deploying OSINT in armed conflict settings: law, ethics, and the need for a new theory of harm
17:40The deployment of open-source intelligence, or OSINT – information gathered from publicly-available data sources and used for intelligence purposes – is having a dramatic impact on armed conflict in the 21st century, rebalancing information asymmetries between states and other actors while supporting accountability efforts. There is, however, a downside to these developments, with OSINT creating and enabling the risk of harm to civilians’ rights, lives, and safety in ways that are not yet fully understood. In this post, part of a new series on Cybersecurity and data protection in humanitarian action, legal researcher and OSINT analyst Ed Millett considers how far international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) currently regulate the use of OSINT techniques by state and non-state actors in armed conflict settings, suggesting that our limited understanding of emergent harms is hampering effective regulation