Foreign Minister Steinmeier received Peter Maurer, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in the Federal Foreign Office on Wednesday (25 May). During their meeting they discussed how to further tailor cooperation between the Federal Foreign Office and the ICRC in the light of the numerous humanitarian crises around the globe. At the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on Monday, Steinmeier and Maurer had already stressed the necessity of strict adherence to international humanitarian law in order to ensure that help reaches people in need.
Crises and conflicts: need for humanitarian aid on the rise
At the start of the meeting Steinmeier noted that over the past years the number of people in need due to crisis, conflict or natural disaster had multiplied. As a result of the ongoing crises in the Near and Middle East, in particular in Syria, Libya and Yemen, ever more people were coming to depend on humanitarian assistance. This was why, he said, cooperation between the Federal Foreign Office and the International Committee of the Red Cross had proven its worth and been intensified in recent times.
Steinmeier drew attention to the fact that, in spite of the persistent crises, there had been some humanitarian victories. For example, in Syria alone more than 800,000 people in besieged towns had been successfully supplied with food, medicines and other aid goods by road and air. Nonetheless, the situation needed to be further improved in order to reach more people in need. Above all, the constant wrangling over access to people in emergency situations remained an urgent problem.
World Humanitarian Summit: compliance with international humanitarian law vital
Steinmeier considers “respect for the fundamental norms of international humanitarian law” to be a basic prerequisite for humanitarian access. International humanitarian law applies in times of armed conflict and includes rules on the protection of people who are not or who are no longer participating in the hostilities. In the recent past these rules have been repeatedly infringed, for example by denying humanitarian agencies access to conflict regions and by conducting targeted attacks on medical facilities in crisis zones.
At the World Humanitarian Summit which took place in Istanbul earlier this week, Foreign Minister Steinmeier and ICRC President Maurer thus both called for strict adherence to the rules of international humanitarian law, to make sure that people can be cared for in emergency situations. Steinmeier said that the 140 countries attending the World Summit had pledged to abide by these rules.
At the end of the meeting, Steinmeier stressed that the ICRC had become a key partner for the Federal Foreign Office in the field of humanitarian assistance. He went on to say that the close cooperation between the two agencies ought to be expanded in the future, having regard for example to the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen.