From armed conflict to urban violence : transformations in the International Committee of the Red Cross, international humanitarianism, and the laws of war
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European journal of international relations, 2020, 23 p.
Bibliography : p. 19-23
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) traditionally seeks to protect and assist victims of armed conflict. Over the past 10 years, however, the ICRC and several other major international humanitarian agencies have turned their attention to situations of urban violence that fall short of the international humanitarian law thresholds for armed conflict. This article examines the institutional consequences of expanding the ICRC mandate to include urban violence, to make a three-fold argument. First, the incorporation of urban violence into its mandate has led to significant and surprising shifts in the organization’s humanitarian boundaries: from eschewing any effort to prevent or reduce conflict and prioritising neutrality and dialogue with all parties to conflict, the ICRC has begun engaging in violence-prevention and violence-reduction activities, compromising its neutrality and limiting dialogue with some armed groups. Second, because the ICRC is such an important and influential actor in international humanitarianism, these shifts in its boundaries have the potential to transform definitions of humanitarianism. Third, these shifts may serve to undermine the moral authority of the ICRC to persuade combatants in international humanitarian law contexts to comply with international humanitarian law, irrespective of the rightness or wrongness of their or their opponents’ goals. Ultimately, then, they may erode the distinction between jus ad bellum and jus in bello in the laws of war.