IHL and Our Response to Humanitarian Needs: A Commonwealth Perspective: Joint pledge on sexual violence, particularly in armed conflict

Michael Meyer
Head of International Law
British Red Cross


  • The British Red Cross provided support to ICRC research on approaches to the potential consequences of mandatory reporting of sexual assault.
  • The British Red Cross developed a policy and advocacy briefing on the social safety net project for survivors of sexual violence, providing recommendations for better programmatic responses. This was shared as best practice within the Gender & Diversity/ SGBV Movement network and will be utilised in communications with the UK’s Department for International Development and in UK policy forums.
  • The British Red Cross actively participated in a Movement-wide workshop to develop a SGBV training for National Societies and Federation delegates.
  • In early May 2016 the British Red Cross and the ICRC held a public event entitled “Local to International: Responding to Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Conflict and Crises”.  The event explored the humanitarian system and its response to the issue.
  • In early June 2016 the British Red Cross held a joint seminar on IHL issues with the Commonwealth Secretariat, which included a session on addressing SGBV in armed conflicts and disasters. The seminar was aimed primarily at officials of Commonwealth High Commissions in London.
  • The British Red Cross and the ICRC co-authored a paper covering a range of IHL issues for the Meeting of Senior Officials of Commonwealth Law Ministries and the Meeting of Law Ministers and Attorneys-General of Small Commonwealth Jurisdictions, both held in October 2016. The paper addressed matters including sexual and gender-based violence in situations such as armed conflicts, disasters and other emergencies. The paper has been up-dated for presentation at the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting in October 2017.

Challenges have included social and cultural reluctance in programmes to address explicitly some aspects of SGBV, as well as the requirement to maintain anonymity of survivors, owing to the existence of mandatory reporting obligations in some domestic contexts.