Thursday, May 22, 2014

Call for Papers: Access for Humanitarian Action: Legal and Operational Challenges in Assisting and Protecting People Affected by Armed Conflict

A call for papers has been issue for the 9th annual Minerva/ICRC conference on international humanitarian law, to take place November 3-4, 2014, in Jerusalem. The theme is: "Access for Humanitarian Action: Legal and Operational Challenges in Assisting and Protecting People Affected by Armed Conflict." Here's the call:

Conference Call For Papers

The 9th Annual Minerva/ICRC Conference on International Humanitarian Law

"Access for Humanitarian Action: Legal and Operational Challenges in Assisting and Protecting People Affected by Armed Conflict"

3-4 November 2014, Jerusalem

The Minerva Center for Human Rights Faculty of Law and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Delegation in Israel and the Occupied Territories

INTRODUCTION: The Minerva Center for Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Israel and the Occupied Territories are organizing an international conference that seeks to explore some of the most pressing issues surrounding humanitarian action in situations of armed conflict. The conference, the ninth in the series of annual Minerva/ICRC international conferences on International Humanitarian Law (IHL), with the cooperation of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, is scheduled for 3-4 November 2014 in Jerusalem.

Recipients of this call for papers are invited to submit proposals to present a paper at the conference. Authors of proposals selected for the conference will be offered full or partial coverage of flight and accommodation expenses.

Submission deadline: 1 July 2014

BACKGROUND: Armed conflicts, whether international or non-international, invariably generate tremendous human cost. Humanitarian action attempts to reduce the vulnerabilities of people exposed to violence and deprivation. That objective cannot be attained without access to the affected populations. Under international law, the parties to an armed conflict bear the primary responsibility for ensuring the basic needs of the civilian populations under their control. At the same time, impartial humanitarian organizations have a right to offer their services, in particular when the needs remain unanswered. While the provision of such services is subject to the consent of the party concerned, consent cannot be withheld in the face of persistent basic needs. Moreover, the law requires that parties to an armed conflict, as well as third parties, allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of impartial humanitarian relief schemes that have been agreed to, and which remain subject to control.

Although central to the very concept of international humanitarian law, humanitarian action faces today multiple and often overlapping challenges which threaten to undermine its purpose and to erode its effectiveness. Some challenges are of a political nature, for example when humanitarian action is blocked because it is perceived as favoring one party to an armed conflict over another. Some are related to the nature of modern-day armed conflicts, for example their fragmentation to a multitude of armed groups controlling different pockets of territory, making it a highly complex endeavour to manage security risks for the provision of relief. Some challenges have to do with the characteristics of those providing assistance, for example when the participation of military forces in relief operations leads to humanitarian operations being perceived as pursuit of military or political agendas. Others still have to do with the legal rules governing humanitarian access to theatres of hostilities.

While conventional and customary IHL establishes the framework of, and conditions for, humanitarian access, there remains troubling ambiguity surrounding the concrete implications of the rights and obligations of state and non-state parties to an armed conflict, as well as of third states and other actors responding to the humanitarian needs of the people affected by the conflict. For example, who exactly is entitled to offer services and under which conditions? Or, can the requirement of state consent be waived under certain circumstances, and if so under which conditions? When would withholding consent be arbitrary and what are the consequences of that? Whose consent should be sought when the central government loses control over an area? Furthermore, it is necessary to have a better understanding of the scope and limitations of the right of supervision that the parties to both international and non-international armed conflicts are allowed to exercise on relief operations. While such a right may include the search of relief consignments or the supervision of their delivery, it must not impede the rapid deployment of a relief operation. What are the concrete implications of the parties' obligation to "facilitate" the passage of humanitarian relief? And in which circumstances can the denial of humanitarian access constitute a crime under international law? The conditions for carrying out humanitarian action are also an area where further clarification is needed, especially with regard to non-international armed conflicts, as there are very few rules of treaty or customary IHL that regulate this issue.

At a more general level, to what extent are parties to both international and non-international armed conflicts bound to accept humanitarian actions in territories under their control? While the relevant provisions of the two Additional Protocols stipulate that relief actions "shall be undertaken" when the population lacks supplies essential for its survival, thereby clearly establishing a legal obligation, they further provide that such obligation is subject to the agreement of the state concerned. It would thus appear that a balance has to be found between two apparently contradicting requirements. How to strike this balance in practice is a profound and difficult question.

The rights and obligations of actors carrying out humanitarian activities is another issue that warrants further analysis. For instance, to what extent are humanitarian organizations entitled to enjoy freedom of movement in their activities? What are the correlative right of the parties to armed conflicts to temporarily restrict their freedom for reasons of imperative military necessity? And what is the role of third states, including states whose territory is used for the transit of relief operations? In an international armed conflict, the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol I provide (in Articles 23 and 70(2) respectively) that "each High Contracting Party", meaning not only those participating in a conflict, must allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of all relief consignments, equipment and personnel. This raises questions about the interaction between the consent to humanitarian access given by the parties to the armed conflict and the obligations of third states to facilitate such access. For example, what is the meaning of Article 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 70(2) of Additional Protocol I not mentioning consent? Could this imply that humanitarian organization do not require consent for carrying out their activities from such third states? And what can be made of the fact that a similar obligation does not appear in the law governing non-international armed conflicts.

When considering specifically occupied territories, particular questions arise with respect to humanitarian access as regulated under occupation law. This includes for example the application of Article 59 of the Fourth Geneva Convention dealing with relief schemes to an inadequately supplied population in the occupied territory. How does the obligation of the occupying power to agree to relief schemes and to facilitate them compared to the relief actions mentioned by Article 70 of Additional Protocol I, which speaks of relief actions that "shall be undertaken" for populations in other than occupied territories? To what extent must consent by an occupying power be sought? Or, what does the obligation to facilitate relief schemes concretely mean?

Finally, a number of more practical issues surrounding relief operations in armed conflicts should be examined. For instance, the challenge that recent armed conflicts pose to health-care personnel, facilities and beneficiaries is one of the most serious, yet often unrecognized, humanitarian challenges in the world today, resulting in a lack of medical attention for the wounded and sick. Although acts that hinder the delivery of health care often violate basic principles of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and although numerous efforts have been undertaken by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement over decades to put an end to these acts, the problem nonetheless persists.

The pressing nature of many of these issues warrants an academic debate that would touch upon the application of core humanitarian law principles to a complicated reality. Such a debate is intended to sharpen legal issues, clarify existing standards and propose future directions for strengthening the law governing humanitarian access.

PAPER SUBMISSION PROCEDURE: Researchers interested in addressing these and other questions related to the conference topic are invited to respond to this call for papers with a 1-2 page proposal for an article and presentation, along with a brief CV. Proposals should be submitted by email to the Minerva Center for Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem ( no later than 1 July 2014.

Applicants should expect notification of the committee's decision by the end of July 2014. Written contributions (of approx. 10-25 pages) based on the selected proposals will be expected no later than 16 October 2014. The Israel Law Review (a Cambridge University Press publication) has expressed interest in publishing selected full length papers based on conference presentations, subject to its standard review and editing procedures.


Prof. Yuval Shany, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Chair)

Mr. Anton Camen, ICRC, Israel and the Occupied Territories

Adv. Danny Evron, Minerva Center for Human Rights, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Adv. Miya Keren-Abraham, ICRC, Israel and the Occupied Territories

Adv. Mikhail Orkin, ICRC, Israel and the Occupied Territories

Dr. Yael Ronen, Israel Law Review

Mr. Charles Shamas, Mattin Group, Ramallah