Do the Geneva Conventions matter?

Do the Geneva Conventions matter?

Do the Geneva Conventions matter?

A Reality Check on the 70th Anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions

The four Geneva Conventions of 1949 turn seventy on 12 August 2019. 70 years is a moment to celebrate. The Geneva Conventions are more than just international treaties; they have become the symbol par excellence of humanity in warfare. Yet numerous are conflicts in which the Geneva Conventions are not respected. Atrocities are being committed, rights of combatants and civilians disregarded. Moreover, new technologies with uncertain effects on human dignity, such as autonomous weapons, are emerging.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, the 6th Security and Law: A Reality Check tried to look at the broader picture of international humanitarian law effectiveness, to answer the question ‘Do the Geneva Conventions Matter?’.

On 25 February 2019, three experts, representing respectively an academic, a humanitarian and a military perspective, offered their insights during a panel discussion, moderated by Tobias Vestner, Head of Security and Law at the GCSP:

Professor Matthew Evangelista, President White Professor of History and Political Science, Cornell University and co-editor of the book ‘Do the Geneva Conventions Matter?’ (OUP, 2017);

Mr Jean-Marie Henckaerts, Legal Adviser, Legal Division and Head of the project to update the Commentaries on the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols of 1977, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC);

Colonel Jerry Lane, Director of the Legal Service, Irish Defence Forces.


Watch the video of the event


Security and Law: A Reality Check is the event series to address how international law matters in security affairs. It aims to critically assess if current norms fit contemporary and future security challenges, how international commitments can effectively be implemented, and how new international law can successfully be shaped.