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Norway will host a conference on protection of civilians under IHL in Oslo 23-24 May

Last updated: 08.05.2013 // The conference «Reclaiming the Protection of Civilians under IHL» will take place in Oslo 23-24 May 2013. The mission in Geneva recently held an information meeting to encourage a broad participation.

The information meeting took place in Palais des Nations in Geneva 8 May. Ambassador and Permanent Representative Steffen Kongstad welcomed all states, humanitarian organisastions, military and other relevant actors to participate in the upcoming conference.

An excerpt of what Ambassador Kongstad said is provided below:

Introduction to the conference:

  • The Foreign Minister of Norway, in cooperation with the Governments of Argentina, Austria, Indonesia and Uganda, will host the Global Conference on Reclaiming the Protection of Civilians under International Humanitarian Law 23-24 May 2013.  

Rationale – why are we doing this?

  • Over the years, international humanitarian law has developed into a strong body of law that sets clear obligations for the parties to armed conflict to protect the civilian population.


  • Nevertheless, we still see that the majority of victims of armed conflict are civilians. The terrible suffering inflicted on civilian populations across the globe necessitates an honest and open-minded discussion on how to improve, in practical terms, the protection of civilians affected by armed conflicts.


  • The focus of this initiative is on the humanitarian consequences for civilians in armed conflicts and what can be done to improve the situation.


  • Lack of knowledge of or respect for the rules is one reason that civilians are so severely affected. We need to find ways to ensure that all parties to a conflict are reminded of the rules, and that those who violate them are held accountable.


  • At the same time, in today’s complex conflicts, actors who strive to respect humanitarian law may find this challenging.


  • For this reason, we believe it is necessary to engage government experts, the military, humanitarian organisations, as well as all other relevant actors, in a genuinely global dialogue on how to ensure that all parties to a conflict live up to their obligations under international humanitarian law.


  • To this end, we need to identify concrete, practical measures to be taken by the different actors involved in armed conflicts in order to improve the situation for civilians.


About the initiative and the process


  • The “Reclaiming the Protection of Civilians under International Humanitarian Law” initiative was launched in 2009 to create a forum for such dialogue. Through a series of regional seminars, including in Jakarta (2010), Buenos Aires (2011), Kampala (2012) and Vienna (2013), focus has been on the main challenges and on concrete measures that could address them. The discussions in the Global Conference will build on the discussions and experiences drawn from these seminars.


  • The aim of this initiative is to discuss and identify practical measures that may be taken by both military and civilian actors to ensure full compliance with existing IHL obligations. The initiative will hence not negotiate new legal obligations. The final outcome document of the conference will be in the form of a co chairs’ summary with a list of recommendations that may be taken.


  • Another key goal for this initiative is to establish a “global community for IHL and the protection of civilians”; a continuous, global dialogue on how we can work together to ensure that civilians are given the protection they are entitled to under international humanitarian law. Concrete proposals for how these discussions may be taken further at a national, regional and global level are highly welcome.


More about the conference 23 – 24 May


  • The panellists will include military and civilian experts as well as humanitarian actors in order to facilitate a field-based approach and discussion.


  • The agenda will include presentations by experts and discussions around five key aspects on how to reduce civilian harm and strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict. (Ref. preliminary agenda).


  • We envision the participation by officials on a senior level with practical experience and knowledge of IHL and/or the humanitarian field from the military and civilian administration.


  • We look forward to welcoming all states to Oslo to discuss these important issues and to move forward on urgent common concerns. Civilians in armed conflicts deserve nothing less.


To find more infromation about the conference, including the preliminary program and practical information on how to register, please visit the conference webpage at  www.reclaimingprotection.no .

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