ICRC for Europe and Central Asia Encourages Kazakhstan’s Voice in Humanitarian Law Reinforcement

ASTANA — Global challenges call for international humanitarian law reinforcement adhering to the fundamental principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence. In this landscape, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) encourages Kazakhstan to engage in the development of humanitarian law contributing to reconciliation, said Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, ICRC, Ariane Bauer in an interview with The Astana Times. 

Ariane Bauer. Photo Credit: The Astana Times

Astana hosted a round table dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict on May 14. The event gathered international representatives and Kazakh authorities, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Culture and Information and Kazakh academia, to discuss the protection of cultural property during conflicts. 

“It was a crucial meeting for us to raise awareness in Kazakhstan on the importance of humanitarian law. The Hague Convention particularly focuses on cultural property protection during conflict. Thankfully there is no such situation in Kazakhstan, so it is always good to address difficult issues in peacetime,” said Bauer, who joined ICRC in 2008 and held operational and managerial positions in complex conflict environments, notably in Azerbaijan, Ukraine, the Central African Republic, Iraq, the Philippines, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and the Kyrgyz Republic. 

ICRC-Kazakhstan cooperation

Kazakhstan is a signatory of the 1954 Hague Convention and its first Protocol, which focuses on preventing the exportation of cultural property and providing for the restitution of illegally exported objects. 

“But we encourage Kazakhstan to also accede to the second protocol,” said Bauer. 

Interview with Ariane Bauer. Photo credit: The Astana Times

The original draft of the protocol contained far-reaching provisions. Given the difficulties several governments faced in adopting those provisions on the restitution of property, it was decided to separate them from the Convention and to adopt them in the form of a separate protocol. 

“For us, Kazakhstan is an active partner. It supports the implementation of international humanitarian law and aims to mediate conflicts. We have very close relations with Kazakh representation in Geneva for the permanent mission, as well as here in Astana with authorities and our colleagues from the Kazakhstan Red Crescent Society,” said Bauer.

This year Geneva will host the 34th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Oct. 28-31. The event, themed Navigate Uncertainty – Strengthen Humanity, will unite representatives of the state parties to the Geneva Conventions, Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, the IFRC and the ICRC. 

“This will be a very important moment for national societies and states to come together in Geneva to discuss many important matters,” said Bauer.

Looking ahead, the ICRC plans to collaborate further with Kazakhstan on initiatives, including reinforcing international humanitarian law and addressing the humanitarian impact of cyber threats. 

“We count on Kazakhstan’s strong voice in discussions on the implementation and respect of international humanitarian law and we encourage states to make this a political priority” she added. 

“We are working with the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense to conduct regular training on international humanitarian law,” said Bauer, noting the plans to deepen joint efforts in this field. 

Movement’s response to massive floods in Kazakhstan

“I would like to express our thoughts and solidarity to all the people affected by those very harsh floods,” said Bauer. 

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Disaster Response Emergency Fund announced a grant to the Kazakhstan Red Crescent of 500,000 Swiss francs (US$552,000) to enable the National Society to address the immediate needs of 5,000 people in the most affected areas across six regions through cash grants. 

Based in Geneva, the ICRC is an independent humanitarian organization helping victims of armed conflict and internal crises and coordinating the work of National Societies in such situations. The IFRC, on the other hand, coordinates international relief provided by National Societies for victims of natural disasters, refugees and displaced people outside conflict zones. 

“The sister organization, Kazakh Red Crescent Society works predominantly with the IFRC to support those affected by the consequences of natural disasters. In that sense, we cooperate with two entities,” said Bauer. 

“Those entities, of course, cooperate with the state authorities to ensure that the most vulnerable people affected by floods get support,” she added. 

One of the organization’s  priorities is ensuring the reach of humanitarian aid to those most at risk and most vulnerable, in line with the organization’s fundamental principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence.

“If, for example, there was a conflict situation in Central Asia or people were affected by violence, we would go into those communities with our colleagues and try to understand the situation and needs. For example, old people who have special needs or institutions that need some specific support. Once we identify those needs we coordinate our response with authorities to help those people as fast as possible,” said Bauer.

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