IHL and Our Response to Humanitarian Needs: A Commonwealth Perspective: Joint Pledge on Respecting and Protecting Health Care in Armed Conflict or Other Emergencies

Katie Kelly, Protection of Civilians Desk Officer, katie.kelly@fco.gov.uk


Using our permanent seat in the UN Security Council, the UK advocates for the protection of all civilians in crisis situations, including medical personnel and facilities and humanitarian personnel and assets, in line with IHL.


In 2016, with UK co-sponsorship, the UN Security Council passed resolution 2286 strongly condemning attacks and threats against the wounded and sick, medical and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities


The UK took the opportunity last month to respond to the Secretary General’s annual report on Protection of Civilians, which focussed on the implementation of 2286 and made recommendations, including:

  • Taking practical steps to mitigate impacts on the ground. Work is ongoing to fortify healthcare facilities in Syria and to promote access to mobile clinics in Yemen.
  • We’re sharing our expertise overseas, helping foreign governments and their armed forces comply with International Humanitarian Law, and helping them improve the effectiveness of their military justice systems- aiming to ensure accountability for these crimes.
  • We recommend the collection of better and more systematic data on attacks on medical facilities and personnel. The SG has committed to doing this within the UN system, we need to support and contribute to these efforts. It’s not enough to collect the data, we need to use it. The UK has therefore called for more Council briefings from the whole UN family including OPCHA, OHCHR and the Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict when attacks on medical facilities and personnel occur.