|Motto||"Protecting civilians in armed conflict"|
|Legal status||Non-profit making organization|
|44 staff and consultants (2017)|
Geneva Call is a neutral and impartial non-governmental organization based in Geneva, Switzerland. The NGO is dedicated to promoting respect by armed non-state actors (ANSAs) for international humanitarian norms in armed conflict and other situations of violence, in particular those related to the protection of civilians. Geneva Call is currently focusing its efforts on banning the use of anti-personnel mines, protecting children from the effects of armed conflict, prohibiting sexual violence in armed conflict, working towards the elimination of gender discrimination and building armed non-State actors’ knowledge and implementation of broad International Humanitarian Law (IHL) rules.
Since 2015 it has been studying the protection of cultural heritage in conflicts involving ANSAs, which comprise the majority of current armed conflicts worldwide.
Some members of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines were concerned that the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, was only binding on states. Geneva Call was created in 1998, one year after the Ottawa Treaty was signed, to begin engaging armed non-State actors on the subject of landmines.
However, Geneva Call took little action until March 2000, at a conference organized by the Swiss Campaign to Ban Landmines called Engaging Non-State Actors in a Landmine Ban. This conference, the first of its kind, created a foundation for approaching armed non-State actors about a landmine ban, and served as the official launch of Geneva Call.
Geneva Call is a non-profit organization under Swiss law. It is headed by a board composed of local personalities with expertise in international law, in the thematic issues that compose Geneva Call's mission, in business or politics. The board is organizing an advisory council consisting of further experts in Geneva Call's work.
Micheline Calmy-Rey, Member of the Board, was Switzerland's Foreign Minister as head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. She was a member of the Swiss Federal Council from 2003 to the end of 2011, and was President of the Swiss Confederation in 2007 and again in 2011.
Elisabeth Decrey-Warner, Member of the Board, co-founder and previous Executive President of Geneva Call, has worked for over 25 years with NGOs on issues relating to refugees, torture, disarmament and humanitarian norms. Her work was recognized in 2005 when she was nominated for Switzerland as one of the 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize. Ms Decrey Warner was a member of the Parliament of the Republic and Canton of Geneva for 12 years and was elected its President in 2000. She was a member of the Advisory Board of the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) and is currently member of the Advisory Board of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD). Ms. Decrey Warner was nominated among the 100 most influential people in violence reduction in armed conflict and was awarded the prestigious Hessen Peace Prize in 2012. In 2013, she was awarded the French Legion of Honour. She was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Geneva.
Priscilla Hayner, who was Vice-Chair of the Board of Geneva Call, was one of the co-founders of the International Center for Transitional Justice and until 2010 served as a program director and then head of the ICTJ Geneva office.
Armin Köhli, Geneva Call’s Programme Manager Middle East, is a double amputee and accomplished cyclist, who placed fifth in the road race event at the 2000 Paralympic Games and won two bronze medals, five silver medals, and two gold medals in the Swiss cycling championships between 1997 and 2003. Mr. Köhli uses cycling competitions as an opportunity to promote awareness for mine action.
Geneva Call engages with armed non-State actors to encourage them to comply with international humanitarian norms, improving the protection of civilians in armed conflict. These international humanitarian norms are enshrined in the Geneva Conventions and other international treaties. While initially focusing on the ban of anti-personnel mines, Geneva Call has expanded its work into additional areas that deserve specific attention, namely the protection of children in armed conflict – notably from recruitment and use in hostilities – as well as the prohibition of sexual violence and gender discrimination. This expansion was envisioned in Geneva Call’s founding statutes and has also been encouraged by armed non-State actors themselves. Geneva Call has also increasingly provided IHL training to armed non-State actors, and advice on how to incorporate IHL rules into their codes of conduct and other internal regulations.
Geneva Call developed an innovative mechanism, the Deed of Commitment that allows armed non-State actors to pledge to respect specific humanitarian norms and be held publicly accountable for their commitments. They cannot become parties to relevant international treaties, and are generally precluded from participating in norm-making processes. Consequently,they may not feel bound to abide by rules that they have neither put forward nor formally adhered to. Sometimes they are simply not aware of their obligations under IHL.
The Deed of Commitment process gives them the opportunity to formally express their agreement to abide by humanitarian norms and take ownership of these rules.
To date, Geneva Call has developed three such documents:
- Deed of Commitment for Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action, launched in 2000 ;
- Deed of Commitment for the Protection of Children from the Effects of Armed Conflict, launched in 2010 ;
- Deed of Commitment for the Prohibition of Sexual Violence in Situations of Armed Conflict and towards the Elimination of Gender Discrimination, launched in 2012.
Geneva Call’s mission is currently divided into four thematic issues: banning anti-personnel mines, protecting children in armed conflict, prohibiting sexual violence and gender discrimination and respect of humanitarian norms.
Since 2000, Geneva Call has engaged around 100 armed non-State actors on four thematic areas and to date 55 of them have signed at least one of Geneva Call’s 'Deeds of Commitment'.
The struggle against anti-personnel mines was the original focus of Geneva Call. Geneva Call engages armed non-State actors to reduce the impact of anti-personnel mines on the civilian population by promoting the ban and encouraging cooperation in mine action.
In 2000, Geneva Call launched a first Deed of Commitment under Geneva Call for Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action.
- Prohibit under any circumstance the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of anti-personnel mines;
- Undertake and cooperate in stockpile destruction; mine clearance; victim assistance; mine awareness; and various other forms of mine action, in cooperation with specialized organizations.
In November 2003, the Deed of Commitment banning anti-personnel mines mines was included in the UN Mine Action Guidelines for Ceasefire and Peace Agreements as a mechanism for armed non-State actor engagement.
Geneva Call has been involved with child soldiers as early as 2001, when it invited the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers to a conference on engaging non-state actors to discuss their experiences in that field.
Geneva Call engages armed non-State actors to reduce the effects of armed conflict on children by promoting respect for children’s rights, in particular the prohibition of the recruitment and use of children in hostilities.
In November 2010, Geneva Call launched a second Deed of Commitment, the Deed of Commitment under Geneva Call for the Protection of Children from the Effects of Armed Conflict.
By signing the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict, armed non-State actors agree, inter alia, to:
- Prohibit the use of children in hostilities;
- Ensure that children are not recruited into, or forcibly associated with, armed forces;
- Release or disassociate children in safety and security;
- Protect children from the effects of military operations;
- Do their best to provide children with the aid and care they need, in cooperation with specialized child protection agencies.
In June 2012, Geneva Call launched a third Deed of Commitment, the Deed of Commitment under Geneva Call for the Prohibition of Sexual Violence in Situations of Armed Conflict and towards the Elimination of Gender Discrimination''.
- Prohibit all forms of sexual violence;
- Prevent and sanction acts of sexual violence;
- Provide victims with access to the assistance and care they need;
- Ensure confidentiality and protection of victims of sexual violence;
- Eliminate discriminatory policies and practices against women or men;
- Ensure greater participation of women in decision-making processes.
Geneva Call engages Armed non-State actors (ANSA) in several countries on a global scale :
- Burma / Myanmar
- DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo)
- South Sudan
- Western Sahara
In addition to engagement on specific norms (anti-personnel mines ban, protection of children from the effects of armed conflict and prohibition of sexual violence and gender discrimination), Geneva Call seeks to build armed non-State actors knowledge of broad IHL rules, and their capacities to implement them.
In recent years, Geneva Call has increasingly provided trainings and technical advice to armed non-State actors on how to incorporate IHL into their policies, codes of conduct and other internal regulations and on implementation. In some cases, especially where Geneva Call’s current themes of engagement are not priority issues or best starting points for dialogue, activities around IHL can serve as a method for engagement.
From its inception in 2000, Geneva Call has engaged with about 100 armed non-State actors worldwide and sensitized thousands of their leaders and members on international humanitarian norms. As of today, 49 armed non-State actors have signed the Deed of Commitment banning anti-personnel mines, 19 have signed the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict, and 16 have signed the Deed of Commitment prohibiting sexual violence and gender discrimination.
Overall, their compliance record has been good. Except in one case, no conclusive evidence of violation of the Deeds of Commitment has been found to date. Signatories have taken implementing measures and cooperated in the monitoring of their compliance by Geneva Call. In addition, a number of armed non-State actors that have not signed the Deeds of Commitment have nevertheless taken steps towards compliance with international standards, for example by limiting mine use and/or facilitating mine action in areas under their control.
Over the past 17 years, Geneva Call has gained international recognition and support from many quarters, including States Parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, the United Nations, the European Union, and the African Union, and is seen today as a global leader and a pioneer in its field.
Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General has mentioned Geneva Call and its work on multiple occasions, including a speech where he identified the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment as a "successful example" of special commitments with non-state actors. The International Forum on Armed Groups and the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, held by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers in July 2006, recognized the Deed of Commitment as "one of the most innovative forms of persuading armed groups to make unilateral declarations to abide by IHL norms". In 2017, NGO Advisor has named Geneva Call as the 85th best NGO in the world in its 2017 edition of the ranking.
Criticism and Controversy
At the Seventh Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty, Turkey accused Geneva Call of signing a Deed of Commitment with the Kurdistan Workers' Party without knowledge or consent from the Turkish government, describing the act as "inappropriate and unacceptable." Geneva Call claims that it informed Turkey of the engagement. Turkey refuses to allow Geneva Call into its borders to conduct verification missions with the Kurdistan Workers' Party.
The 2010 United States Supreme Court case Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project ruled that organizations providing international law training to organizations recognized as terrorist groups by the Department of State are committing a crime. Because of Geneva Call's work with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, some of the organization's activities could be considered illegal under American law. Geneva Call President Elisabeth Decrey-Warner responded that "civilians caught in the middle of conflicts and hoping for peace will suffer from this decision. How can you start peace talks or negotiations if you don’t have the right to speak to both parties?"
- Non-profit making Foundation, Geneva Call, 2014
- Lostal, Marina; Hausler, Kristin; Bongard, Pascal (2017). "Armed Non-State Actors and Cultural Heritage in Armed Conflict". International Journal of Cultural Property. 24 (04): 407–427. doi:10.1017/S0940739117000200. ISSN 0940-7391.
- Geneva Call's Statutes, Geneva Call, 2014
- Structure of Geneva Call Geneva Call, 2014
- "Structure - Geneva Call". 2013-09-03. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- La Légion d’honneur l’habille La Tribune de Genève, 19 September 2013, Retrieved 3 February 2014
- "Decrey Warner Elisabeth - Geneva Call". 2014-05-07. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
- Tour d'Armin - Armin Köhli Retrieved 3 February 2014
- Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment banning anti-personnel mines, Geneva Call, 2014
- Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment protection children in armed conflict , Geneva Call, 2014
- Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment prohibiting sexual violence and gender discrimination, Geneva Call, 2014
- "Armed Non-State Actors - Geneva Call". 2013-08-21. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
- "Report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict" (PDF).
- "Report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara" (PDF).
- International forum on armed groups and the involvement of children in armed conflict: Summary of themes and discussions, Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, 2007, Retrieved 3 February 2014
- Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor Retrieved 3 February 2014