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Rules in War – A Thing of the Past?

Article published on 05/10/2019 on CSIS website

Rapid changes in warfare pose stark, complex challenges for international humanitarian law (IHL). Indeed, they raise fundamental questions about the relevance, normative power, and impact of IHL in today’s dangerous world.

Proliferating conflicts are increasingly intractable, lasting for years or decades, causing protracted human suffering on a mass scale. Battles waged in densely populated cities suddenly put huge numbers of vulnerable civilians at-risk. Non-state armed groups – ISIS, Al Qaeda, and others – wage asymmetric war. Security partnerships and proxy wars, often embedded in a new Cold War of intensified Great Power confrontation, magnify the scale of wars and have obscure chains of command. New technologies – “killer robots,” A.I., cyber weapons – are no less opaque and problematic. Meanwhile, the surge of deliberate, targeted violence against aid workers, health facilities and schools, often with utter impunity, disrupts humanitarian access, destroys critical infrastructure, and propels mass migration.

As the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions approaches in August, how does this vitally important body of law relate to today’s – and tomorrow’s – realities, a world in which the liberal international order of the past seven decades seems to be fading?

Please join us for a keynote address and armchair conversation with Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Formerly serving as the Swiss Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs for the Swiss Foreign Ministry, Mr. Maurer has a wealth of diplomatic experience with humanitarian crises. He will speak to the continued relevance of IHL, including the centrality of humanitarian principles to gain access to vulnerable populations. He will also address a question of considerable import and timeliness: how are we to achieve a global reaffirmation of the Geneva Conventions, including the enlistment of powerful new advocates, in the face of populist nationalism, historic migration flows, and increasing state fragility?

⇒ Download Keynote Address Transcript


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