The law and practice of cross-border humanitarian relief operations: Syria as a case study

The extremely severe restrictions on humanitarian operations have been one of the defining features of the Syrian conflict. Humanitarian operations have been severely impeded by a range of constraints, including active hostilities, repeated attacks against those providing humanitarian and, in particular, medical assistance, shifting front lines, proliferation of parties to the conflict, and the instrumentalisation of assistance by all belligerents. It is unquestionable though that a principal impediment have been the constraints imposed by the Government of Syria, particularly, but not exclusively, on relief operations for people in opposition-held areas. These were so severe that, following repeated requests to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded access, that went unheeded, the Security Council took the unprecedented step of authorising cross-border and cross-line operations without the need for the consent of the Government of Syria, in Resolution 2165 (2014).

Prof Dapo Akande and Emanuela Gillard will discuss the legal framework regulating cross-border relief operations and how it has been modified by the Security Council in the Syria crisis. They will offer some reflections on what this had meant operationally in Syria and beyond.

Dapo Akande is a Fellow of Exeter College and Co-Director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC).
Emanuela-Chiara Gilliard is a Senior Research Fellow at ELAC, a Research Fellow in the Individualisation of War Project at the European University Institute in Fiesole and an Associate Fellow in Chatham House’s International Law Programme.