Joint Statement on the Affirmation of the Importance of and Adherence to International Humanitarian Law Issued at the World Humanitarian Summit, Istanbul, Turkey

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 24, 2016

The United States and 48 other UN member states have endorsed the joint statement below affirming the importance of and adherence to international humanitarian law at the World Humanitarian Summit, Istanbul, May 23–24.

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Upholding humanity is at the core of humanitarian action and of the United Nations Charter. Civilians caught in armed conflict are among the world’s most vulnerable people. Protecting the vulnerable from harm and preserving their dignity, in particular by upholding international law and seeking accountability for violations, should be at the very top of the international community’s agenda. We believe the international community must remain committed to the protection of civilians in conflict situations by honoring the full spirit and letter of international law.

We commend those States that have robustly implemented and complied with international humanitarian law and that have instituted policies aimed at the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Nevertheless, we express our deep concern that civilians continue to account for the vast majority of casualties in situations of armed conflict. We remain deeply concerned by lapses in too many cases of respect for the principles and rules of international law, in particular international humanitarian law. We express our outrage that recent armed conflicts have seen a rise in the deliberate commission of violations of international humanitarian law by some non-State armed groups. We, therefore, call upon all parties to armed conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law. We also reaffirm our commitments to adhere to obligations that contribute profoundly to the protection of civilians during armed conflict. We recall, in particular, the obligation of all parties to armed conflict to take feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians.

We recall the obligation of all parties to armed conflict to comply with the principle of distinction. This principle requires that parties distinguish between military objectives, including combatants, on the one hand, and civilians and civilian objects on the other. Further, it is prohibited to direct attacks against the civilian population and other protected persons and objects. We also recall the obligation of all parties to armed conflict not to attack specifically protected objects, such as hospitals and cultural property, unless their protection has been forfeited.

We recall the responsibility of all States, in accordance with their respective international obligations, to effectively regulate the international trade in conventional arms. We support the principle that parties to an armed conflict shall take all feasible precautions in the territory under their control affected by explosive remnants of war to protect the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects from the risks and effects of explosive remnants of war.

We reaffirm the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence for the provision of humanitarian assistance, and call upon all States, all parties involved in armed conflict, and all humanitarian actors to respect these principles in order to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance, the safety of civilians receiving such assistance, and the security of humanitarian personnel. We urge all parties involved in an armed conflict to allow full unimpeded access by humanitarian personnel to all people in need of assistance, and to make available, as far as possible, all necessary facilities for their operations, and to promote the safety, security, and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel.

We express deep concern that the occurrence of attacks and threats against humanitarian personnel, the United Nations, and associated personnel are factors that severely restrict the provision of assistance and protection to populations in need. We urge States and all parties to armed conflict to develop effective measures to prevent and address unlawful violence against such personnel, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities. We emphasize that acceptance of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel by the host Governments, local authorities, local communities, populations, and other parties, as appropriate, crucially contributes to their safety and security. We commend the commitment of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel to stay and deliver effectively the most critical programs of assistance even in dangerous environments.

We are gravely concerned that, in many places affected by conflict, access to medical care continues to be severely restricted. We reiterate the need to respect the principle of medical neutrality and to facilitate free passage to all areas for medical personnel, equipment, transport, and supplies, including surgical items.

We are deeply disturbed by the alarmingly high numbers of internally displaced persons throughout the world, for reasons including violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, armed conflict, persecution, violence, and other reasons, including terrorism, as well as natural and human-made disasters. We note the need for increased awareness by the international community on the issue of internal displacement worldwide, including the situation of millions living in protracted situations of displacement, and the urgency of providing adequate humanitarian assistance to and protection for internally displaced persons.

We welcome the initiatives undertaken by regional organizations, such as the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, the Organization of American States, and the Council of Europe to address the protection, assistance, and development needs of internally displaced persons and to find durable solutions for them. We call upon States, in cooperation with international agencies and other stakeholders, to provide protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, and to seek durable solutions for internally displaced persons in their countries, including their voluntary return in safety and with dignity.

We reiterate our strongest condemnation of all violations of international law committed against or directly affecting civilians. We restate our insistence that all parties to armed conflicts comply strictly with the obligations applicable to them under international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international refugee law, and emphasize the need for all parties to armed conflict to take all required measures to avoid civilian casualties and to respect and protect civilian populations.

The below listed UN Member States endorse this statement:

Argentine Republic


The Commonwealth of Australia

Czech Republic


The Eastern Republic of Uruguay

The Federal Republic of Germany

The Federated States of Micronesia

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

The Hellenic Republic (Greece)

The Kingdom of Belgium

The Kingdom of Denmark

The Kingdom of Norway

The Kingdom of Sweden

The Kingdom of Thailand

The People’s Republic of Bangladesh

The Principality of Andorra

The Portuguese Republic

The Republic of Bulgaria

The Republic of Croatia

The Republic of Cyprus

The Republic of El Salvador

The Republic of Estonia

The Republic of Finland

The Republic of Georgia

The Republic of Haiti

The Republic of Honduras

The Republic of Italy

The Republic of Korea

The Republic of Latvia

The Republic of Lithuania

The Republic of Macedonia

The Republic of Malawi

The Republic of Malta

The Republic of Moldova

The Republic of Poland

The Republic of San Marino

The Republic of Seychelles

The Republic of Slovenia


The Slovak Republic

The State of Israel

The State of Japan

The State of Qatar

The Sultanate of Oman


The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The United States of America