A group of 13 international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) that provide humanitarian aid in areas of greatest need call on the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to provide the “fullest support for efforts to protect principled humanitarian action from the impact of counterterrorism measures.” Noting that this year is the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, the June 19 letter states that although the UN has said counterterrorism measures should comply with international humanitarian law (IHL), international human rights law (IHRL) and international refugee law (IRL), “counterterrorism measures continue to threaten humanitarian access and restrict principles engagement with non-state armed groups.” The measures “increase delivery costs, affect programme quality and efficiency, and risk staff security by fueling perceptions that humanitarian organizations are not impartial.”

The letter notes three areas of concern:

  • UN counterterrorism resolutions do not have adequate protections for humanitarian action and member states’ compliance with IHL is “extremely limited.” (For example, see UN Security Council Resolution 2462, passed in March 2019)

  • Member states are introducing “broad, vague counterterrorism legislation and regulations, risking the criminalization of aspects of humanitarian aid…”
  • Donors are increasingly risk-averse and restrictive.

The INGOs recommend concrete steps OCHA can take to solve this problem. First, it should address inconsistencies in the UN’s approach to counterterrorism and humanitarian action. It should also document the impacts on humanitarian operations, particularly in hard to reach areas and finally, ensure “member states and donors are held to account when they impose counterterrorism measures that do not comply with IHL obligations…”

See the letter here.