On the Edges of Conflict

Project background

The changing nature of armed conflict since the end of the Cold War and the events of September 11th presents challenges to the normative framework laid out in the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. Humanitarians, the military and civil society face uncertainty on the edges of today’s armed conflict.

In order to tackle these challenges, the Liu Institute for Global Issues and the Canadian Red Cross have joined in a unique partnership combining their policy, legal and operational know-how to engage international and Canadian experts as well as academics in this research project. In this way, the project also aims to build Canadian policy capacity.

The research examines issues of compliance by non-state armed groups; the roles and responsibilities of private military companies; the growing situations of violence in large urban centers; the interplay between human rights law and international humanitarian law; and the blurring of boundaries between military, policing, development and humanitarian activities.

The Edges of Conflict project consists of three phases:

Phase I: Identifying Priority Areas, September 2007 – March 2008

Phase II: Researching & Debating Alternative Approaches, International Conference, March 2009 -- Papers presented at the conference have formed the edited volume Modern Warfare: Armed Groups, Private Militaries, Humanitarian Organizations, and the Law which is available from UBC Press.

Phase III: Development of policy papers and convening of independent experts,
April 2010

Edge of Conflict Ottawa Meeting, April 29 2010

Following the conference in 2009, the Edges of Conflict project advisory group identified four concrete policy-relevant documents that it recommended be developed by engaging key conference participants in each area as part of the next phase of activities:

  • Statement of principles to enhance compliance of non-state armed groups with international humanitarian law;

      • Written submission and commentary on the Draft U.N. International Convention on the Regulation, Oversight and Monitoring of Private Military and Security Companies (dated July 2009) to the U.N. Office for High Commissioner for Human Rights, Working Group on Mercenaries; 

          • Principles for the delivery of humanitarian assistance in modern armed conflicts, which involve a multiplicity of actors, to ensure maximum benefit to civilians; and,  

              • International policy framework for preventing and mitigating the harmful effects of endemic urban violence.
                • The advisory group chose four researchers with expertise related to the proposed fields of research to independently develop policy recommendations on the basis of the projects’ findings to date, notably: the lead policy papers and the conference report.

                  Researchers in formulating the recommendations were given academic freedom and, as such, the policy recommendations in each paper do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Canadian Red Cross or the Liu Institute for Global Issues.

                  The following four experts were asked to respectively develop the policy recommendations:

                  • Prof. René Provost, Director, McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism

                      • Prof. Benjamin Perrin, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law and Faculty Fellow, Liu Institute for Global Issues, UBC

                          • Prof. Pablo Policzer, Dept. Political Science, University of Calgary

                              • Prof. Don Hubert, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa
                                • Their findings will be presented in Ottawa on April 29, 2010 in front of an invited audience consisting of selected members of academia, key government officials and the Edges of Conflict Project’s key supporters.

                                  To download a meeting agenda, please click here.

                                  To download the policy papers, please click here [6MB].

                                  The Canadian Red Cross and the Liu Institute for Global Issues are looking forward to continued collaboration on this project and wish to thank the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defence for their support.


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