Humanitarian Corridors


Recently, Russia declared a temporary ceasefire in the Russia-Ukraine War to provide “humanitarian corridors” for civilians.

About Humanitarian corridors:

  • Humanitarian corridors are demilitarized zones, in a specific area and for a specific time — and both sides of an armed conflict agree to them.
  • Via these corridors, either food or medical aid can be brought to areas of conflict, or civilians can be evacuated.
  • The corridors are necessary when cities are under siege and the population is cut off from basic food supplies, electricity and water.
  • Humanitarian corridors can provide crucial relief in a situation of large-scale bombing of civilian targets.
  • They are prone to military or political abuse. For example, the corridors can be used to smuggle weapons and fuel into besieged cities.

Who sets them up?

  • In most cases, humanitarian corridors are negotiated by the United Nations. Sometimes they’re also set up by local groups. Since all sides need to agree to set up the corridors, there is a risk of military or political abuse. For example, the corridors can be used to smuggle weapons and fuel into besieged cities.

  • On the other hand, they can also be used by UN observers, NGOs and journalists to gain access to contested areas where war crimes are being committed.

What corridors have been established in Ukraine?

  • In eastern Ukraine, a five-hour cease-fire was to be in place on Saturday, March 5, to allow around 200,000 people from Mariupol and 15,000 residents from the city of Volnovakha to leave.
  • But the initiative failed after a few hours. The Mariupol city administration said the evacuation had been “postponed for security reasons” because Russian troops continued to bomb the city and its surroundings.
  • According to news agency Reuters, Russia however said the corridors set up near Mariupol and Volnovakha had not been used. Russian news agency RIA said “nationalists” prevented the civilians from escaping, and that Russian troops also came under fire during the cease-fire.
  • Ukraine also said that in the port city of Kherson, Russia had not fulfilled the promise of a corridor and that 19 vehicles with humanitarian aid had not been allowed through.

Who gets access?

  • Access to humanitarian corridors is determined by the parties to the conflict. It’s usually limited to neutral actors, the UN or aid organizations such as the Red Cross. They also determine the length of time, the area and which means of transport — trucks, buses or planes — are allowed to use the corridor.
  • In rare cases, humanitarian corridors are only organized by one of the parties to the conflict.

What are International conventions related to the Humanitarian Corridor?

  • Even before international organisations recognised humanitarian corridors, such zones were defined in armed conflicts including in World War II when Jewish children were evacuated from areas under Nazi control to the United Kingdom.
  • Humanitarian corridors were defined in resolution 45/100 of the UNs’ general assembly in 1990.
    • It said that “relief corridors” are seen by the international community as an important instrument to back up the right of civilians to receive assistance during armed conflicts.
    • It is also recognized in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977.
  • In 1992, the International Institute of Humanitarian Law from Sanremo in Italy defined the concept more specifically.
    • “Humanitarian assistance can transit, in this case, through the so-called humanitarian corridors, which must be respected and protected by the relevant authorities and, if necessary, under the authority of the UN”.
  • Humanitarian corridors have been frequently used in the Syrian civil warLibyan civil warand Gaza war among other such conflict zones.

What are Associated Issues?

  • Difficult To Enforce: Since all sides need to agree to set up the corridors, Humanitarian corridors are difficult to enforce.
    • There are many wars and conflicts where calls for civilian corridors or a pause in fighting have been made in vain.
    • In the ongoing war in Yemen, for instance, the UN has so far failed in its negotiations.
  • Possible Misuse: There is a risk of military or political abuse.
    • For example, the corridors can be used to smuggle weapons and fuel into besieged cities.

Way Forward

  • Need for Humanitarian Pause: In addition to the humanitarian corridor, the global community should encourage a humanitarian pause as the corridors are constructed.
    • A humanitarian pause would involve a temporary cessation of fighting to protect civilians.
    • This will enable civilians to reach the corridors and move through safely.

Source: Indian Express

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