PoC WEEK 2022: Breaking the deadlock: practical actions for implementing UNSC Resolution 2286 & protecting healthcare from attack

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This is a brief report of one of the side events of the second day in the UN Protection of Civilians week 2022.

The conference briefly presented hereby was held on May 24, 2022 in the context of PoC week 2022 through an online meeting hosted by the governments of Spain, Poland, France, Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the International Rescue Committee and Safeguarding Health Coalition. Among others, this meeting was attended by several representatives of UN agencies, government officials and NGO staff. The focus was on the legacy of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2286 condemning attacks on medical facilities and health workers in conflict zones, on the sixth anniversary of its implementation. Despite the intentions, the fundamental provisions of the Resolution have not been properly respected, and by 2022 the structures and health personnel in conflict zones are still constantly involved in the dynamics of war. The discussion has taken into consideration the two main limitations of today’s international community approach to the matter: the lack of an efficient system for sharing crucial data and the inability (and often the lack of will) of the parties to legally prosecute offenders of the aforementioned attacks, often indiscriminate and implemented with the complacency of the actors involved in the conflicts.

Among the speakers, the discussion was introduced by Dr. Christina Wille, researcher at Insecurity Insight and contributor to the most recent report from the NGO Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition (SHCC). She presents a general overview of the countries where healthcare systems and workers have been most affected during 2021, also referring to the types of attacks and their incidence. The numbers are no better than in previous years, and the situation is clearly worse compared to 2020. In the last year there have been at least 1,335 accidents involving the health sector in 49 countries compared to less than a thousand the previous year, and at least 1,458 health professionals who were directly and not involved. In particular, the most worrying trend is the practice of arresting and kidnapping doctors and operators, mainly in Myanmar and Afghanistan. Particularly Myanmar seems to be the first in 2021 for the number of healthcare workers arrested. 

After this introductory statement, the floor passed to nurse Amani Ballour, who spoke about the alarming situation in Syria concerning healthcare facilities. Ballour underlined the need for the implementation of strong measures for the protection of healthcare facilities, in the country, where most of the structures were destroyed by airstrikes, leaving open access only to a few structures. She made a very moving speech talking about an explosion that took place in the hospital where she worked, which involved three of her colleagues who, unfortunately, were victims of the attack. 

Going further with the discussion, the participants focused on the topic of “Data collection about healthcare under attack” and on how to improve it. The first statement on this regard was released by Ambassador Olof Skoog, Head of Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, who emphasized how the collection of data during conflicts is fundamental to enabling concrete protection of civilians. This statement was then supported by the other participants who pointed out that a more accurate data collection on attacks on healthcare is currently necessary because it enables humanitarian operators to identify specific patterns and develop strategies to protect these structures and the people who work in them. Moreover, another important point about data collection was underlined, which is the fact that new technologies should be adopted and implemented in war sites. After this, Alain Délétroz, General Director of Geneva Call, remarked on the significance of direct engagement of healthcare workers in these operations.

In conclusion, the need for jurisdiction methods and the establishment of clear processes of investigation - especially in cases like Syria, has been stressed. In this context, the constant analysis and documentation of the events is fundamental for developing good practices and implementing Resolution 2866 in a comprehensive manner.


by Ignazio Alcamo e Alexia Tenneriello

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