Talk by Mr Jeremy England on ‘Humanitarian Perspectives on Global Security Trends - International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) View and its Approach in India’
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Mr Jeremy England, Head of regional delegation of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) based in New Delhi, delivered a talk about ICRCs perspective about its functioning in India as well as worldwide humanitarian operations. The regional delegation of ICRC covers operation in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives. Mr England gave an insight about ICRC which is associated with India since 100 plus years.

The ICRC is an independent, non-political organisation with a large field of humanitarian activities which it undertakes through its presence in over 80 countries around the world. It has a universally recognised responsibility to promote International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and to respond to the needs of people affected by situations of humanitarian concern, in particular armed conflict and violence. Through its work, the organisation is exposed to both the trends and consequences of global security concerns.

While describing the global situation, Mr England, who specialises in law, policy and humanitarian diplomacy programmes, gave a synopsis of the global security environment that gives rise to humanitarian needs and responses, gist of which follows.

Unresolved developmental or security issues will always be with us – but the speed and extent of change, and the numbers of people in need but without support, is testing the traditional as well as new response mechanisms alike. New technologies, new players, new power equations are interacting with a weakening respect for IHL in some areas of the world, increased competition for regional influence and stronger nationalistic narratives often trumping global commitments or common interests. The fear, or misuse, of information is leading to larger crises, weaker responses, and less trust in institutions. As one of the world’s oldest and largest humanitarian organisations, the ICRC is worried about what actually happens to those in need – how are they listened to, protected and assisted? Different players, advanced technologies and fresh influences offer new solutions, but also new challenges. Stronger support to our common values, and finding new ways of working together, are essential.

Globally, the past decade has seen a worrying multiplication of armed conflicts and prolonged situations of violence. Since 2011, there has been a six-fold increase in conflict-related deaths, with 2014 and 2015 being the deadliest years since the end of the cold war. Many conflicts have lasted several decades and still have no end in sight. These conflict situations have become increasingly fragmented - the last six years have seen a 60-fold increase in the number of non-state armed groups. When we talk about today`s conflicts and the ensuing humanitarian crises, we see a systematic breakdown of the agreed distinctions between what is internal and international, and a blurring of lines between state and non-state, and between combatants and non-combatants. The minimum standards of IHL are often disregarded, and rarely investigated.

The above is often aggravated by increased polarisation – a result of misinformation, extreme identity-based politics, or politicised nationalism, particularly in response to perceived threats of what is termed terrorism, migration, domestic economic challenges and inequality.

Correspondingly, there is a lack of credible trusted peacemakers, and a surfeit of regional, state or non-state parties, willing to profit from the absence of international community consensus. Finally, when disasters strike, whether man-made or natural, they increasingly impact population dense urban environments causing massive setbacks to development gains.

These trends have enormous impacts on civilians. Mr England cited that according to World Bank’s estimate, nearly two billion people now live under fragility or violence and some 65 million are displaced. In Syria, Iraq and Yemen alone – where the ICRC has some of its largest operations – 50 million people are in need, 19 million are displaced. This suffering is unprecedented since the World Wars.

In response, individual nations and the international community appear not to be able to agree on the mode, scale and resourcing of sufficient responses. All our cultures and religious philosophies demand better – whether we call it ahimsa, compassion or moral duty. The ICRC’s principles of humanity and impartiality tries to make a positive difference to those affected. Its neutrality and independence means it does not seek to judge or report on given situations, but rather to prioritise access, humanitarian response and collaboration. But there are no humanitarian solutions for the scale and complexity of today’s crises – only efforts to protect and assist as many of those affected as possible while political solutions are found by others.

Mr England specified three specific needs:-

- Greater respect for humanitarian norms everywhere, and at all times. IHL is the codification of the millennia old values we all share – that doctors should not be attacked, non-combatants should not be targeted, that wounded should be helped. Such suffering is unnecessary, and failure to observe these standards make finding peace more difficult;

- A fresh diplomatic push for peace, both through conflict prevention and resolution, from responsible policy advisors and governments; and,
- A drive to build new partnerships and agreements on how to address global humanitarian issues.

India, as one of the largest troop contributing countries to UN Peacekeeping Missions, a substantial development cooperation donor, a non-aligned but globally connected power, and a spiritually and philosophically rich nation, has a crucial role to play in these areas.

There are some specific areas where Indian research and policy specialists are able to lend a responsible voice and narrative to the dialogue on today’s crises. The first is insisting upon responsible partnering. Too many countries provide weapons and support to actors known to ignore IHL, or to block responses to those in need. How can the states halt this?

The second is to look at new technologies – how can these help with innovative assessments, deliveries, responses and security, and where these are a threat, creating new risks, more violence, or less control? In both, how do we make sure to keep the human at the centre of decision making? Both India and the ICRC are working on finding and applying innovations, but also on exploring future norms for controlling new weapons - whether cyber, autonomous or artificial intelligence.

The third is to work together to find complementary ways of assuring that humanitarian needs are not left unaddressed. When no help is provided, tensions worsen. When development and humanitarian response are not reconciled, the link between resilient systems and effective response is weakened.

In today’s new geopolitical world, what are the models that are going to allow better responses? How can East and West, local and international, contribute to a better world?

Event Date 
August 1, 2018

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