70 years of the Geneva Conventions

On August 12th, 1949 the international community adopted the four Geneva Conventions :

  • the 1st Convention protects wounded and sick soldiers on land during war
  • the 2nd Convention protects wounded, sick and shipwrecked military personnel at sea during war
  • the 3rd Convention applies to prisoners of war
  • the 4th Convention protects civilians, including in occupied territory

The Additional Protocols of 1977 further protected the victims of armed conflicts.

The Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols are at the heart of international humanitarian law: they save lives and limit the barbarity of war

At the wake of the Second World War, the States universally supported the two key principles of the Geneva Conventions:

  • The respect for life and human dignity, as defined in article 3 (common to the four Conventions) that condemns in particular cruel treatments, torture, hostage taking and executions without prior judgement.
  • The solidarity principle, according to which the wounded must be treated indistinctively. The Conventions also support the role of medical missions and protect the staff, the medical units and transports in all circumstances.

France supports the application of these texts around the world

  • France signed the four Geneva Conventions on August 12th, 1949 and ratified them in 1951.

Although the 1st article of the Conventions asserts the obligation to respect the Conventions in all circumstances, violations of international humanitarian law still occur every day.

At the United Nations, France promotes the universalization and the respect for the Geneva Convention and the Additional Protocols. France is particularly attentive to the further development of the Conventions in order to face the current challenges in this field.

France also focuses on the protection of humanitarian and medical staffs and their free access to the populations in the conflict zones.

France and Germany have launched a Humanitarian Call for Action at the wake of their successive presidencies of the United Nations Security Council.

Finally, France supported a political declaration on October 31st, 2017, regarding the protection of the medical staff during conflicts and is mobilized to achieve a wider endorsement across States.

Last updated on: 12 August 2019