Roundup: UN, Red Cross issue joint warning on world's humanitarian crises

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer warned on Saturday that civilians around the world are increasingly becoming the victims of a systemic disregard for international humanitarian law.

"Today, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross are calling for an end to impunity, an end to the callous disregard for human life, and a recommitment to international humanitarian law," Ban told press in an unprecedented joint warning in Geneva's Palais des Nations.

"From Afghanistan to the Central African Republic, from Ukraine to Yemen, combatants and those who control them are defying humanity's most basic rules," the UN head remarked, adding that "every day, civilians, ordinary women, men and children, are being deliberately or recklessly injured and killed, tortured and abducted. Every hour, people in dire circumstances are being denied the medical care, food, water and shelter they need to survive."

Citing the hospital bombing earlier this week in Yemen, the 39th health center hit since the conflict began in March, as well as the bombing this month of a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) facility in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, Ban warned that "there is a risk people will think that the deliberate bombing of civilians, the targeting of humanitarian and healthcare workers, and attacks on schools, hospitals and places of worship are an inevitable result of conflict."

Among the actions both leaders urged states to take were to redouble efforts to find sustainable solutions to conflicts, use every means to wield influence over parties to armed conflict to respect the law, as well as condemn those who commit serious violations of international humanitarian law, such as deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Also mentioned was the need to ensure unhindered access to medical and humanitarian missions and protect medical and humanitarian workers and facilities, protect and assist internally displaced people and refugees while supporting host countries and communities, and to stop the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas.

"If states, other actors in conflict, and the international community as a whole do not act responsibly now, there will be millions more victims. Acting responsibly means redoubling efforts to achieve political solutions and, pending such achievements, ensuring that humanitarian principles and law are respected," Maurer explained.

The upcoming 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December 2015 and the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 will both strive to focus on the urgent need to implement measures which will ensure the protection of civilians in conflict.

"Seventy years since the United Nations was founded to maintain international peace and security, 50 years since the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement were adopted, the world is at a turning point," Maurer concluded.

Figures show that some 60 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes because of wars and violence, representing the highest number of displaced people since the Second World War. Endit

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