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Wednesday, 16 Jun


Strengthening Accountability in the Fight Against Impunity for Attacks Against Humanitarian and Medical Workers in Armed Conflicts

Organised by EU Delegation to the United Nations - New York




Background and Objectives

The security context in which humanitarian actors operate in many situations is a volatile and dangerous environment and increasing complex and challenging over the last two decades, resulting in a high number of attacks against, injuries to andfatalities of humanitarian and medical personnel. Humanitarian emblems and flags, which traditionally provided a shield forhumanitarian and medical workers, and their activities, are now often the targets of conflict parties. The impact of the COVID-19pandemic has led to increasing needs and exacerbated insecurity in many countries and conflict areas.

There are several key challenges that need to be addressed to improve the safety and security of humanitarian workers andmedical personnel, in particular in armed conflicts. A better understanding of the current situation and risks is needed. Data andmonitoring mechanisms on security incidents are key to provide a clear picture of what occurs on the ground, in particular in themore dangerous areas where mainly local organizations are active. Beyond having the appropriate data, the analysis of such dataalso needs to be reinforced, to better support the humanitarian community and policy-makers in adopting the most appropriateresponse to prevent and respond to such attacks.

We also see a growing disregard for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the shrinking of humanitarian space. It isimportant to understand how IHL protects humanitarian and medical personnel and the critical role that the humanitarianprinciples play in the protection of humanitarian workers and enabling humanitarian assistance. At the same time, it is crucial toexplore existing challenges related to the implementation of IHL, Security Council resolutions and relevant mechanisms put inplace to ensure accountability of perpetrators of such violations. The worrying trend of impunity needs to be urgentlyaddressed. Application of counter-terrorism (CT) measures and sanctions in a manner which is not consistent with IHL maynarrow down the humanitarian space and may have negative effects on the safety of humanitarian and medical personnel.
Exploring well-framed humanitarian exemptions and other mitigation measures within CT measures and sanctions regimes canpositively contribute to safeguard humanitarian activities and avoid that humanitarian personnel can be held liable for activitiesundertaken in compliance with IHL.

At a time when humanitarian needs have reached unprecedented levels, the international community bears a key responsibilityfor ensuring that humanitarian and medical workers and partners work in the safest possible environment to fulfill their criticaland life-saving tasks and be protected in undertaking their work, and that perpetrators are held accountable. In this context,
there is a need for more analysis on the role the UN and Member States play and their duty of care with regard to humanitarianand medical personnel and attacks on healthcare. We must stress the crucial role of humanitarian workers to engage with allparties to a conflict, including non-state armed groups, in order to secure access and carry out humanitarian activities to all thosein need, while benefitting from the protections afforded under IHL and having their personal safety and security ensured.

To this end, the proposed discussion series aim to:

identify the main challenges towards the safety and security of humanitarian and medical workers;
explore detailed practical solutions for the international community to take on the short and long term, and identify andpromote the exchange of best practices


The Discussion Series will be co-hosted by the European Union together with Norway, Niger, Mexico, Switzerland (tbc), Germanyand France. The series shall consist of four thematic discussions at PR/DPR level, aiming to provide insights on politicalopportunities and challenges including practical considerations. The series will be open to all interested Member States.
Representatives of the UN, the Red Cross and Crescent movement, key Humanitarian organisations, civil society and academiawith a keen interest in the topics will be also invited to participate.

A technical group will prepare the discussions series in advance. The co-hosts of the thematic discussions will share before themeetings a technical fiche and a number of guiding questions. A briefer will introduce each of the Discussion series.


Each session will focus on identifying short and long-term practical solutions and political opportunities. A summary documentincluding identified avenues for further action will be prepared at the end of the discussion series. The Discussion Series shouldbe also seen as part of existing initiatives, notably they will contribute to the development of key elements of the “Call for Actionto strengthen respect for international humanitarian law and principled humanitarian action”, launched by Germany and France andendorsed by all the co-hosts of the discussion series.

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Source and more information: Discussion Series on Ensuring the protection, safety, and security of humanitarian workers and medical personnel in armed conflicts - European External Action Service (