Don't just condemn humanitarian law violations. Stop them

Article by MP Stephen Twigg for theguardian

In the name of war, hospitals and camps for stranded people have been bombed. Leaders at the world humanitarian summit must hold those responsible to account

The recent airstrike on a camp for Syrians displaced from their homes is the latest in a long line of tragedies resulting from the disregard that certain parties to conflict hold for international humanitarian law.

The UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, the UN high commissioner for human rights, the French foreign ministry, the White House and many others have all spoken out against this horrific attack, yet frustrations abound with the inability of the international community to stop them from happening.

While a recent resolution from the UN security council condemning attacks against medical facilities and their staff is welcome, it is only the starting point. Condemning violations is not enough – they must be stopped.

This frustration has prompted the withdrawal of the highly respected Médecins Sans Frontières‎ (MSF), one of the integral cogs in the humanitarian system, from participation in the first world humanitarian summit, due to take place in Istanbul this month.

MSF staff work in harrowing conditions on the frontlines of humanitarian response – in cities like Aleppo, Kunduz and Taiz – and this level of commitment can cost them their lives.

In announcing their withdrawal, MSF said: “We no longer have any hope that the summit will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response, particularly in conflict areas or epidemic situations.”

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