The Canadian National Committee for Humanitarian Law (CNCHL)


At the 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (held in December 1995), attendees committed to “move from law into action” through concrete steps. States and national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies also renewed their commitment to promoting International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The 1995 recommendations encouraged States to create National Committees on IHL, with the support of respective National Societies. States have the primary responsibility for the application of IHL through legislative, regulatory, and administrative measures at the national level. National Committees advise and assist their governments in implementing and disseminating IHL, while facilitating inter-ministerial and inter-departmental coordination and cooperation. Canada supported this recommendation.

Today, the world has more than 110 national committees, covering all continents.

International Humanitarian Law (IHL)

IHL, also known as the law of armed conflict, limits and prevents human suffering in times of armed conflict. IHL also restricts the means and methods of war. It protects people who are not or are no longer participating in hostilities.

Canada's National Committee for Humanitarian Law

The CNCHL was established on March 18, 1998, pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding.

CNCHL Activities

The CNCHL is a forum for sharing information and discussing recent developments in IHL. All members participate actively in IHL dissemination activities on a proactive basis. Ongoing exchanges take place between CNCHL members on their respective IHL related activities, while identifying different needs for decision-makers interdepartmentally.

CNCHL Mandate

CNCHL's mandate is to facilitate the implementation of IHL in Canada, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocols.

The CNCHL's major functions include:

  • making recommendations on whether Canada ought to become party to new IHL treaties;
  • facilitating implementation of IHL in Canada, such as reviewing and advising on legislation and other measures relating to Canada's IHL obligations (for example, punishments for IHL violations and the protection of the red cross and other emblems protected by IHL);
  • advising on training and awareness of IHL within Canada, including the Canadian Armed Forces, police, judges and lawyers, medical professionals, schools and universities, journalists, and members of the public;
  • coordinating and stimulating action to strengthen IHL and raise public awareness of IHL;
  • examining and, when appropriate, recommending measures to promote the national implementation of IHL in other countries drawing on the resources and expertise available in Canada; and
  • maintaining an updated list of experts in IHL and sharing information on IHL with other national committees, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).