Q What is the context ?
Recently, Russia declared a temporary ceasefire in the Russia-Ukraine War to provide “humanitarian corridors” for civilians.
- As the war enters a likely deadlier phase, numerous civilians attempt to leave the country for safety and refuge, there must be humanitarian measures taken to reduce civilian casualties.
Q What are Humanitarian Corridors?
- They are demilitarised zones, in a specific area and for a specific time — and both sides of an armed conflict agree to them.
- The United Nations (UN) considers humanitarian corridors to be one of several possible forms of a temporary pause of armed conflict.
- For example through large-scale bombing of civilian targets — humanitarian corridors can provide crucial relief.
- Need: The corridors are necessary when cities are under siege and the population is cut off from basic food supplies, electricity and water.
- Function: Through these corridors, either food and medical aid can be brought to areas of conflict, or civilians can be evacuated.
- Accessibility: Access to humanitarian corridors is determined by the parties to the conflict. It’s usually limited to neutral actors, the UN or aid organisations such as the Red Cross.
- They can also be used by UN observers, Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) and journalists to gain access to contested areas where war crimes are being committed.
Q What are International conventions related to the Humanitarian Corridor?
- Even before international organisations recognised humanitarian corridors, such zones were defined in armed conflicts including in World War II when Jewish children were evacuated from areas under Nazi control to the United Kingdom.
- Humanitarian corridors were defined in resolution 45/100 of the UNs’ general assembly in 1990.
- It said that “relief corridors” are seen by the international community as an important instrument to back up the right of civilians to receive assistance during armed conflicts.
- It is also recognized in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977.
- In 1992, the International Institute of Humanitarian Law from Sanremo in Italy defined the concept more specifically.
- “Humanitarian assistance can transit, in this case, through the so-called humanitarian corridors, which must be respected and protected by the relevant authorities and, if necessary, under the authority of the UN”.
- Humanitarian corridors have been frequently used in the Syrian civil war, Libyan civil war, and Gaza war among other such conflict zones.
Q What are Associated Issues?
- Difficult To Enforce: Since all sides need to agree to set up the corridors, Humanitarian corridors are difficult to enforce.
- There are many wars and conflicts where calls for civilian corridors or a pause in fighting have been made in vain.
- In the ongoing war in Yemen, for instance, the UN has so far failed in its negotiations.
- Possible Misuse: There is a risk of military or political abuse.
- For example, the corridors can be used to smuggle weapons and fuel into besieged cities.
Q What can be the Way Forward ?
- Need for Humanitarian Pause: In addition to the humanitarian corridor, the global community should encourage a humanitarian pause as the corridors are constructed.
- A humanitarian pause would involve a temporary cessation of fighting to protect civilians.
- This will enable civilians to reach the corridors and move through safely.