In the 150 years since the signing of the first Geneva Convention, which laid the groundwork for international humanitarian laws, the world has only become more dangerous for both civilians and the humanitarian aid workers helping them.
That’s according to Martin Dahinden, director of the Swiss Development Agency in the Department of Foreign Affairs and designated Swiss ambassador to the United States.
“The number of civilian victims is frighteningly high, regardless of whether we look at the conflicts in and around Syria or elsewhere,” Dahinden said during a recent talk at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. “The number of dead makes the reality of war tangible only to some extent. The wounded are far greater in number and providing assistance to them is frequently difficult in conflict situations.”
Respect for humanitarian law is also swiftly deteriorating, he added.
“International humanitarian law today is universally recognized,” he said. “Compliance with legal norms, however, is often poor. Infringements frequently go unpunished.”
Dahinden says the plight of civilian victims is often underreported.
“It’s a time where we have to stand up against violations and raise a strong voice as it has been done 150 years ago when there was almost nothing,” he said. “Civilians went through hell during war without any support. There was nothing."