Beyond Compliance: International Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflict

Beyond Compliance: International Humanitarian Law, Humanitarian Need and Civilian Harm in Armed Conflict

Authors: Dr Rebecca Sutton and Emanuela-Chiara Gillard

There is value in identifying, and attempting to prevent or mitigate, violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). However, analysis of the lived experiences of war suggest that an approach framed around IHL may not cover the whole spectrum of needs and harms that arise.

This study presents the concepts of ‘humanitarian need’ and ‘civilian harm’ as two different (yet complementary) ways of thinking about IHL’s role in reducing human suffering and promoting quality of life for war-affected populations. The authors examine the relevance of this role across five key drivers of need and harm – conduct of hostilities, access to goods and services, displacement, conflict-induced hunger, sanctions – and share policy recommendations in relation to each of these drivers.