Video Duration 25 minutes 55 seconds
From: Talk to Al Jazeera

Red Cross’s Peter Maurer: Geneva Conventions are being violated

ICRC president discusses Yemen, Syria, Lake Chad and other conflict areas 70 years after Geneva Conventions were signed.

Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), says his organisation’s budget has doubled in the past few years as it deals with the scale of conflict and displacement in the world today.

The organisation’s work is based on the Geneva Conventions, a set of international treaties signed in 1949 that defines the international legal standards for the humane treatment of civilians and prisoners of war during times of conflict.

“It is all about preserving humanity in war,” Maurer says.

The Conventions allow the Red Cross to provide its services to those engaged in conflict, including ensuring humanitarian assistance for victims of war, responding to emergencies, and promoting respect for international humanitarian law.


by ”Peter

at the same time the most fragile in terms of climate change. So there is obviously a link.”]

But with the scale of current global conflicts – and the increasing battle for influence – how does the ICRC make sure the Geneva Conventions are followed?

“Nobody can discard the stark reality that the Geneva Conventions are violated by a lot of parties in today’s conflicts,” Maurer tells Al Jazeera, but he stops short of directly calling out any of the offending parties.

Discussing violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen, he says it is “a glass-half-full, half-empty” situation. “While the pattern of implementation of the Geneva Conventions in a context like Yemen is of course a big challenge – and we see violations continuing – we also see big efforts from all the belligerents to engage with us and to improve.”

Other deeply entrenched or fragmented conflicts are a growing concern for the organisation, Maurer says. He calls this time “a difficult period” that reflects the “impossibility at the moment of big powers to move to consensus on how exactly to settle … some of the biggest conflicts in the world”.

This includes Syria, which is the ICRC’s largest ongoing operation. The conflict continues despite diplomatic efforts, which Maurer agrees has involved a discrepancy between words and actions of the countries involved.

“For eight years we have heard political leaders talking about the fact that there is no military solution while pursuing on-the-ground military solutions,” he says, later adding: “We have even more been distressed by the repetitive violations of international humanitarian law in the conduct of hostilities, in use of weapons, in the treatment of detainees.”

“I think we can only hope that in a foreseeable future we find at least ceasefire-type arrangements which give reprieve to the civilian population which has so much suffered in that Syrian context,” he says.

Outside of the Middle East, Maurer says large-scale violence is also afflicting people in Africa‘s Sahel and Lake Chad basin regions – but with far less international attention.

“When you visit the region it pops to your eyes that there is long-standing developmental reasons which contribute to the fragility of this context. There is climate change-induced migration and population displacements which comes on top of a very war-torn and violent situation,” he says.

“The Europeans only look through the eyes of migrants coming to them, and maybe insufficiently look at the complexity of the origin of fragility and population displacements in the Sahel and the Lake Chad.”

He says climate change will continue to drive instability.

“When you look at the list of countries most at risk from climate change, and you look at my priority list of conflict, war, and violence, these almost match. Eight out of 10 places in the world which are top priorities to ICRC to respond to war [are] at the same time the most fragile in terms of climate change. So there is obviously a link between climate change-induced fragility and violence-induced fragility.”