Home Institution

University of Texas at Austin

Publication Date

Spring 2013

Program Name

Switzerland: International Studies and Multilateral Diplomacy


The changing nature of warfare in the 21st century poses a multitude of challenges to the perceived applicability of International Humanitarian Law for both State and non-State actors in contemporary conflicts. These issues, including but not limited to: ambiguity in the distinction of violent conflict, the changing type of actors involved, issues of asymmetric warfare, challenges of negative reciprocity, and an inhibited ability to engage with all parties to conflict, are detrimental to the overriding purpose of IHL. Still, the oftentimes inefficient nature of the international system, as well as lack of consensus regarding new legislation means that formal changes in IHL to more flexibly reflect the reality of situations will not be developed anytime in the near future. Therefore, it is in the best interest of all parties to non-international conflicts to aspire to better respect the existing norms of IHL, which can only be attained if States recognize the dire need for inclusive engagement with all types of non-State actors. In addition, practices of positive reciprocity must be carried out by all parties, in order to better serve the ultimate goal of International Humanitarian Law: the reduction of human suffering, and the preservation of human dignity in times of violent armed conflict.


Human Rights Law | International Law