Didier Reynders pleads for better protection of civilians in city wars

Today, the Inter-Ministerial Commission of Humanitarian Law, the Belgian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross organize the Conference: “War in cities: Searching for practical solutions to the contemporary challenges”, in collaboration with the Belgian Society for International Law. During his speech, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense Didier Reynders will insist that countries further strengthen their commitment to the protection of civilians in city wars and the respect for international humanitarian law.

For centuries, vast battlefields were the scene of armed conflict. Cities were sometimes besieged or plundered, but the fighting rarely took place within the city itself. Contemporary armed conflicts however, almost always take place in cities. City centers and residential areas are the new battlefields.

Warfare in urban areas presents us with complex challenges, also when it comes to the implementation of the rules of international humanitarian law. Civilians are the first to pay the price of the terrible consequences of urban conflicts. It is more than likely that cities will remain the scene of armed conflict, making it all the more necessary to reduce the suffering of the civilian population and respect international law.

The conference offers the opportunity to speak with representatives of countries, international organizations, renowned academics and practitioners on the humanitarian challenges that these conflicts entail.

Minister Reynders will draw attention to the serious human toll of armed (urban) conflicts during his presentation and will emphasize the importance of dialogue between countries in order to strengthen and enforce international humanitarian law.

Humanitarian protection is extremely important for Belgium and our country has been making efforts to defend it for years. Our country does this in close cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and OCHA. Belgium doubled its contribution to the ICRC for example last year to foster the promotion and protection of international humanitarian law.

During its mandate in the Security Council, Belgium also wants to keep humanitarian protection high on the international agenda. Including by means of recurring thematic issues such as children and armed conflicts (SRSG) , women, peace and security (Resolution 1352 of the UN Security Council), protection of civilians (PoC) and access to humanitarian aid, which is too often used as a bargaining chip or political leverage.