Need for Political Will To Ensure Protection of Civilians and Aid Workers

Representatives of Ireland’s humanitarian community gathered yesterday, Tuesday 25th October, to discuss the significance that International Humanitarian Law plays in protecting aid workers in conflict zones. 

Hosted by the Irish Red Cross in Dublin’s Mansion House the event was attended by more than 40 NGO workers, along with speakers from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Irish Defence Forces and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

During an open panel discussion about the complexities of implementing International Humanitarian Law, Mona Sadek, ICRC Deputy Head of Mission, commented that “the biggest challenge is not the lack of law but the political will to adhere to the Laws and rules of War.”  Whilst Sam Taylor, Director of MSF, spoke of his first hand experiences of witnessing the violation of IHL in conflict zones and echoed Ms Sadek’s comments, “The deficit is in action, not in the law”.

International Humanitarian Law, often referred to as the ‘laws of war’ are a set of rules which strive to limit the effects of armed conflict and to protect civilians, those no longer taking part in conflict, medical personnel, civil defence staff and humanitarian workers.

In September this year, a Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) warehouse and aid convoy in rural Aleppo were attacked killing twenty civilians and one SARC worker.  During the past six years, 54 staff and volunteers of SARC have lost their lives whilst carrying out their duties. John Roche, Irish Red Cross Head of International Relations, spoke about the importance of building awareness of IHL in Ireland, “By helping aid workers from Ireland understand the relevance of IHL in the context of their own safety and work, we hope to prevent further losses from the humanitarian community.”

“Our role as humanitarian workers is to support and protect those made vulnerable by disaster and conflict. It is impossible to achieve this without the direct buy in and proactive support of political, State and non-State leaders”, said Mr Roche.

The Irish Red Cross is committed to promoting respect for International Humanitarian Law by improving awareness and understanding of the protection it provides amongst all those active in situations of armed conflict. This includes not only humanitarian agencies themselves but also the defence forces, armed groups and states who may be required to consent to and facilitate humanitarian assistance which is impartial in character and conducted without adverse distinction.


Notes to Editor:

For more information please contact: Rebecca Dunne, Irish Red Cross Communications Executive, 087 743 3275 /

About the Red Cross and Red Crescent

The Red Cross and Red Crescent form parts of the world’s largest humanitarian organisation, the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. The Movement is neutral and impartial, and provides protection and assistance to people affected by disasters and conflicts.
The Movement is made up of nearly 100 million members, volunteers and supporters in 190 National Societies. It has three main components:

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
190 member Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies including the Irish Red Cross

John Roche form the Irish Red Cross leads a panel discussion on international humanitarian law.