Protection of humanitarian and medical personnel [fr]

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Humanitarian aid in Syria
Credits: UNOCHA


Attacks against humanitarian and medical personnel sharply increased in recent years. According to the UN Secretary-General, 530 NGO aid workers were targeted between 1 January 2017 and 30 June 2018. 60 lost their lives, 96 were injured, and 113 were abducted. WHO reports 869 attacks on medical infrastructure or personnel between January 2018 and March 2019, resulting in 187 deaths and 961 injuries. Attacks on humanitarian and medical personnel and hospitals are affecting many countries, including CAR, South Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan. There are also persistent obstacles to humanitarian access. Preventing humanitarian and medical personnel from taking care of people living in conflict areas is increasingly being used as a weapon of war. These practices constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.

The Security Council, seized of the matter

In this context, the UN Security Council has addressed the issue, including through resolution 2175 (2014) on the protection of humanitarian personnel, United Nations and associated personnel, which condemns all forms of violence and intimidation against humanitarian personnel, as well as attacks on humanitarian convoys and acts of destruction and looting of their property. On 3 May 2016, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2286, a groundbreaking text as it is the first Security Council decision on the protection of “the wounded and sick, medical personnel and humanitarian workers whose activities are exclusively medical, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities”. France has been particularly active in the adoption of this resolution.

In view of the persistence of acts of violence and other impediments to access to medical care in situations of armed conflict against humanitarian and health personnel, the international community must continue to mobilize its efforts to strengthen the security and protection of personnel, infrastructures and other material resources allocated to the medical mission, as well as those of the sick and wounded.

France, mobilized for the protection of humanitarian and medical personnel

France is determined to contribute to strengthening the security and protection of humanitarian and medical personnel. French President, Emmanuel Macron, announced during the UN General Assembly in September 2017 the launch of an initiative on this issue.

This call was concretized with the organization by France on 31 October of a ministerial meeting on the protection of humanitarian and medical personnel. This meeting was chaired by the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, and gave Member States and actors on the ground the opportunity to adopt concrete measures with the signing of an ambitious political declaration.

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Political declaration on the protection of medical care in armed conflict
(PDF - 35 kb)
With this declaration, States:

- Recognize the importance of the Secretary-General’s recommendations on the implementation of resolution 2286;
- Agree to review their national legislation to comply with international humanitarian law, with regard to medical protection.
- Recognize to avoid arms transfers that could be used in violation of international humanitarian law;
- Call upon the Security Council to adopt measures to respond to repeated acts of violence and other acts impeding the provision of medical care in armed conflict and to include this issue in the mandate of peacekeeping operations.
- Agree to review their national military doctrine if necessary to include the protection of medical mission in the planning and conduct of their operations.

A total of 43 UN Member States have endorsed this declaration: Albania, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Equatorial Guinea, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritanie, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Senegal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay.


France and Germany have made the protection of humanitarian and medical personnel and, more broadly, the strengthening of respect for international humanitarian law a priority for their twin presidencies of the Security Council in March and April 2019.

In this regard, the French and German Foreign Ministers launched a mobilization campaign on 1 April 2019 to preserve the "humanitarian space", i.e. the ability of those who provide assistance to victims of conflicts to carry out their mission safely and effectively. In this respect, they co-chaired on 1 April 2019 an Arria meeting on the protection of humanitarian and medical workers, which collected testimonies and proposals for concrete actions from UN agencies and NGOs. This meeting was followed by a Security Council briefing on respect for international humanitarian law: while 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, this meeting was an opportunity to recall what should be obvious: even war has rules, and these rules are called international humanitarian law. This meeting highlighted several avenues for strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law.

The French and German Foreign Ministers announced on 1 April 2019 the preparation of a "Humanitarian Call for Action" to strengthen respect for international humanitarian law, which will be presented on the margins of the UNGA High Level Week in September 2019.

Dernière modification : 20/06/2019

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