International Humanitarian Law is supposed to protect civilians during armed conflict. However, in recent and ongoing wars, civilians have been injured or killed as a result of indiscriminate, foreseeable and preventable actions. More than 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes, civilian deaths from explosive weapons have increased by 92 percent since 2011, and there have been more than 5,000 civilian deaths since March 2015 in the Yemen conflict.

In a move to protect civilians from actions in war resulting from U.S. military operations and security partnerships, InterAction, an alliance organization of nongovernmental organizations, particularly humanitarian aid and development groups, has launched recommendations for Congress.

The recommendations include the following priority areas for action by the U.S. Congress:

  • Increase U.S. military transparency for civilian casualties,
  • Enhance civilian harm mitigation in U.S. military operations,
  • Improve the conduct of partner forces and private security companies, and
  • Condition arms sales on compliance with international humanitarian law.

“The U.S. military’s ability to propagate effective civilian harm mitigation measures in U.S. and U.S.-led coalition operations is at risk due to the limited number of civilian experts supporting civilian protection efforts in OSD and combatant commands,” the recommendations explain. It also notes that “the size, influence, and military power of the United States means that how the U.S. behaves has an overwhelming influence on the behavior of other states and other conflict parties,” adding, “The U.S. can and should set an example and call on others to follow its lead.”

Each of the four recommendations contains a detailed action plan for Congress on how to achieve that goal. InterAction invites organizations to use the recommendations in their ongoing advocacy and to share them widely with their networks.

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