In May 2016, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2286, its first-ever resolution addressing attacks on health services in armed conflict. Resolution 2286 has potentially far-reaching implications: the Council not only condemns attacks and demands compliance with international humanitarian law in armed conflict, but also urges member states and the UN Secretary-General to take proactive steps toward preventing attacks and holding perpetrators accountable.
Yet now—more than one year since the Security Council adopted the resolution—we continue to hear reports of attacks on hospitals, medical facilities, and health workers. These attacks, and the frequency of them, show the unfulfilled promise of Resolution 2286—in Syria, Yemen, and other countries in conflict around the world.
The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition’s latest report, Impunity Must End, documents attacks on health that occurred in 23 countries in conflict in 2016. As detailed in the report (see page 15), the coalition calls on the UN Security Council and member states to take concrete steps to implement the resolution and prevent these attacks and end impunity, including:
- Countries should regularly report to the UN on actions taken to prevent attacks, investigate those that occur, and hold perpetrators accountable.
- When member states fail to act, the Security Council should mandate thorough investigations and make referrals to the International Criminal Court or other international tribunals as warranted.
- The Security Council should request that the Secretary-General report annually on the progress of UN agencies, including the WHO, toward systematic collection and dissemination of data on attacks on and interference with health care facilities and personnel, as well as patients, in conflict areas.
Although much, much more needs to be done, there have been some positive actions in recent months for increasing accountability for attacks on health:
- In December, 2016, the UNGA created an independent panel to assist in the prosecution of those responsible for crimes against humanity.
- The World Health Organization announced it will soon launch an online database to track attacks on health care around the world.