U.S. Opening Remarks at International Humanitarian Law Meeting

Third Meeting of States on Enhancing Compliance with International Humanitarian Law
Statement delivered by Mary McLeod,
Principal Deputy Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State

Geneva, Switzerland
June 30 – July 1, 2014

I would like to thank the Swiss government and the ICRC for organizing this third meeting of States on strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law, and for all of the work they have done over the past several years to shepherd this initiative.  I also would like to voice my appreciation for the remarks this morning by President Burkhalter and President Maurer.

I am personally delighted to be in Geneva to participate directly in this initiative for the first time, especially as it enters a critical stage.  My delegation and I look forward to engaging in constructive dialogue on these issues of common concern over the next two days.

The number of delegations represented in this room is a testament to the importance of the work before us.  Although the United States recognizes the progress States have made in improving the implementation of IHL over the past decades, more can and should be done.  Establishing a dedicated forum in which States can engage with each other in substantive, non-politicized discussions on IHL issues would mark an important step forward.  Indeed, we continue to believe that the most effective way to achieve our shared humanitarian objectives is by creating a forum that is conducive to serious, non-politicized engagement on important issues of IHL implementation.  That is critical to ensuring compliance in the long-term.

In the meetings that have been held since the 2011 International Conference, we have begun to craft a mechanism that would advance this cause.  For that, we recognize in particular the role that the Swiss and the ICRC have played in facilitating this discussion among States, as well as the sense of purpose that States have brought to bear.

However, more work lies ahead.  As the Background Document helpfully prepared by the Swiss and the ICRC reflects, there are core areas of agreement as well as areas – both large and small – on which States have yet to achieve consensus.  In addition, there are issues that have yet to be explored fully, most notably how to address non-State actors, which we know are responsible for some of the most horrific IHL violations.

As the form of a potential new IHL compliance mechanism takes shape, we must continue to be guided by the core principles that are reflected in the Background Document.  We must remember that the purpose of any new mechanism should be actually to enhance implementation and compliance by both States and non-State actors.  Politicization must be avoided, as it would undermine the very atmosphere of constructive engagement we have sought to foster.

It is my hope that over the course of these two days, we solidify the progress achieved over the past two years and make more progress still.  We look forward not only to sharing our views with you, but also to listening to perspectives from delegations around the room.  Thank you very much.