Red Cross conference adopts document for further action

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Eleven Southern African countries were part of last month’s International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) international humanitarian law (IHL) regional conference in Pretoria, where an outcomes document was adopted.

The document comprises what a spokesman called “a set of commitments” the countries attending want followed up for action in the course of 2024.

Representatives from Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa and Zambia attended the conference against a background of “global high profile armed conflicts which have seen severe humanitarian consequences”.

Delegates acknowledged the need to recall obligations under international humanitarian law as well as for states in the region to “raise their voices on developing issues”.

Among contemporary issues discussed were digital threats facing people affected by conflict including artificial intelligence and cyber security. The gathering accepted that access to digital technology can save lives, but the use of cyber, information and other digital operations brought new threats and risks. Participating governments reflected on the need to understand advancements in technology in light of their impact on people during armed conflict.

States also heard about the triple impact of food insecurity, climate change and conflict in Africa and actions to mitigate the impact of this triple vulnerability.

In his closing address, ICRC Regional Delegation in Southern Africa Head, Jules Amoti said: “The world is witnessing several armed conflicts with millions of people living in permanent insecurity and instability. Violations of IHL worsen the plight of civilian populations. For these reasons the ICRC continues to advocate for development and full implementation of IHL. Respect for IHL makes the difference”.