An official event was held at the “Tut Blong Pig” lounge at Parliament House on October 7th to mark the launch of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Handbook for Parliamentarians here in Vanuatu. The launch of the handbook, created by Vanuatu Red Cross Society with support from Australian Red Cross, the Australian Government and The International Committee of the Red Cross, signals an important step to ensuring the effective application of the International Humanitarian Law.
The acting head of state, Honourable Marcellino Pipite represented the government of Vanuatu at the event with other guests of honour including Honourable Prime Minister Meltek Sato Kilman Livtunvanu, Honourable ministers, Mr Peter Walton and Mr John Pinney of Australian Red Cross, Christine Reddy of the ICRC and Vanuatu Red Cross President Ati George Sokomanu who officially launched the handbook.
In her opening address, Vanuatu Red Cross CEO Jacqueline De Gaillande said “I believe that parliamentarians have a strong and ongoing role to play in introducing, promoting and defending humanitarian law. The IHL handbook can assist in this task”.
Given that this particular booklet focuses on the Laws of armed conflict, there are some who may question the relevance of the handbook to Vanuatu, a country that has experienced very little armed conflict in the past. However, the humanitarian sector, including civil society and non-government organisations, provides assistance to those in need here in Vanuatu. IHL contains a raft of laws relating to the rights and obligations for the provision of impartial humanitarian assistance. It is therefore a valuable tool for their work. Furthermore, it is important that all people, particularly those with responsibility for the development of policy and laws, know and understand these rules in peacetime to be able to support respect for them in times of conflict.
The IHL Handbook provides an opportunity for Vanuatu Red Cross to work with parliamentarians to advance humanitarian work. “For members of parliament to play a stronger and leading role in international humanitarian law they have to be supported with information, in this case, this comes in the form of our parliamentarian handbook,” De Gaillande said. The handbook will also be an important tool to facilitate dialogue between Vanuatu Red Cross and Vanuatu parliamentarians based on their mutual obligations under international humanitarian law, and other issues of humanitarian concern.
To compliment the launch of the IHL Handbook, Christine Reddy of ICRC and Anna Griffin of Australian Red Cross conducted trainings earlier this week with Vanuatu Red Cross staff and volunteers to enhance their understanding of International Humanitarian Law and how it relates to their work here in Vanuatu. Download a copy of the IHL Handbook for Parliamentarians in Vanuatu here.