Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


Informal Meeting
on Strengthening Compliance with International Humanitarian Law


13 July 2012

Statement by HE Mr Peter Woolcott, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, Geneva

Mr Chair

Thank you for giving me the floor and for convening today’s informal meeting on strengthening compliance with IHL, in cooperation with the ICRC.

Australia is a strong and consistent supporter of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. We are of the view that international humanitarian law continues to provide a suitable framework for regulating the conduct of parties to armed conflicts.

Achieving greater compliance with IHL must be a priority for the international community – for the sake of those fighting as parties to armed conflict and for the sake of civilians whose lives are cut short or irreparably changed when they are, through no fault of their own, caught up in armed conflict.

For these reasons, Australia supported the resolution on Strengthening Legal Protection for Victims of Armed Conflict adopted at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. We co-sponsored the Swiss Government’s pledge to facilitate a process of States working in cooperation with the ICRC to explore and identify specific and practical ways of strengthening compliance with IHL.

Australia recognises that enhancing compliance with IHL requires us to find new solutions to old problems. The reality we face is that real solutions will not come easily.

For this reason, Australia sees merit in States, in consultation with the ICRC, discussing some of the desirable features of any new mechanism that might be considered as a possible means of enhancing compliance with IHL. Debating the pros and cons of specific initiatives at this early stage might side-track us from our common objective. Focussing our first stage of discussions on reaching an agreed framework could provide a useful reference point and provide us with some initial momentum.

Some examples of considerations that might usefully guide our work would be:

 a clear articulation of the objectives of the new approach or mechanism and its likely measureable impact on IHL compliance;
 whether non-State actor compliance, as well as State compliance, will be addressed;
 avoiding undermining existing international processes that have related objectives; and
 the need to take into account the resourcing that will be required to support the new approach or mechanism.

Australia looks forward to learning of the views of other States on this important issue. We would in particular welcome any views States might have on the value of reaching an initial agreement on a framework to help advance our discussions.

We hope that this meeting will be the first of a series of meetings and look forward to future exchanges on how we can work together to ensure that the rules of IHL are better respected.