Establishing international legal protection for nongovernmental organisations engaged on hazardous duties

Although international humanitarian law provides a sophisticated set of measures concerning protection of combatants in armed conflicts, especially armed conflicts of an international character, no treaties have been adopted concerning the protection from attack of forces performing non-combat, peace-keeping type of missions and the punishment of those carrying such attacks out. Moreover, although acts such as killing humanitarian workers would normally be criminalized already by the national laws of the states concerned, the enforcement readiness and capability of those states frequently does not allow for effective investigation and prosecution. Hence the need for universality of jurisdiction which would allow prosecutions by third states.
The fundamental objective is the provision of humanitarian assistance to populations in need wherever they may be. Such humanitarian assistance seeks to save life, to ease suffering, to promote self-reliance, self-sufficiency and the maintenance of livelihoods. The right to receive humanitarian assistance and to offer it is a fundamental humanitarian principle.
Humanitarian workers are considered as non-combatants and civilians under the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their two Additional Protocols of 1977. Additional Protocol I, art. 71, provides for the protection of humanitarian personnel taking part in relief operations, subject to the approval of States in whose territory the conflict occurs. Once approval has been granted, the States are responsible for the security of humanitarian workers, who in turn are obliged to respect the security measures decided by the States; otherwise their mission could be terminated. In general, humanitarian workers acting in respect of the principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, specifically mentioned in the Geneva Conventions of 1949, namely humanity, non-discrimination and impartiality, are also protected.

As a result of the Vienna Conference on Human Rights in 1993, states declared that human rights are the "legitimate concern" of the international community. The nature of the obligation is different depending on the right: from consistent efforts towards meeting an effective right to health within the total of available resources -- to the absolute prohibition of torture. In this context, all emergency aid and development work is by definition stepping in to "deliver" human rights (such as the right to food) where a state is unwilling or unable to fulfill those obligations.

The UN Safety Convention applies to UN operations for maintaining and restoring international peace and security. This would encompass, of course, peace-keeping and peace-enforcement operations authorised by the United Nations Security Council, typically under Chapter VII. To the extent that the General Assembly has authorised such operations in accordance to the Charter, they too would be covered by the Convention. The Convention would apply also outside the parameters of peace-keeping and peace-enforcement, provided that either the SC or the General Assembly declared, for the purposes of the Convention, that there exists an exceptional risk to the safety of the personnel participating in a UN operation. An example would be humanitarian relief to a starving population or election-monitoring activities involving enhanced risk for the safety of the participating personnel.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies