The United Nations Secretary-General, in his recent reports to the Security Council on the Protection of Civilians, has identified improving access for humanitarian operation as one of the five 'core challenges' to enhancing the protection of civilians in armed conflict (see eg S/2012/376 (paras. 57-63); S/2015/453 (para. 7).

In a report to the Security Council in November 2013, the Secretary General called for further analysis of the issue of arbitrary withholding of consent to humanitarian operations and the consequences thereof. He instructed the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to engage with a range of actors to examine the relevant rules and options for guidance in this area. OCHA commissioned both the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC) and the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations (HRFG) to carry out this exercise. Led by Dapo Akande as co-director on both programmes, ELAC and the HRFG engaged in a series of expert consultations which took place in Oxford, in addition to informal discussions in Geneva and New York with officials from a number of international agencies and NGOs, with the aim of providing a restatement of the international law rules.

This process has resulted in the production of the Oxford Guidance on the Law Relating to Humanitarian Relief Operation in Situations of Armed Conflict. The Guidance document was launched at the Oxford Guidance at UN Headquarters in New York last week, and also in Washington DC. In his May 2016 report [S/2016/447, para. 34] to the Security Council on the Protection of Civilians, the Secretary General stated that:

The forthcoming Oxford guidance on the law relating to humanitarian relief operations in situations of armed conflict, which the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs commissioned on my request, should enhance understanding of such a legal framework and inform policies to improve humanitarian access.

The full article can be read at EJIL: Talk!