We, concerned citizens from every part of the world say:
“Stop the Slaughter! Protect Civilians!”
“United Against Inhumanity”  is an emerging international campaign of individuals, civil society groups and non-governmental organizations concerned about the routine violation of norms and standards adopted after World War II to make the world a safer place for everyone endangered by conflict or in need of refuge. The death and suffering that results from the inhumanity experienced in crises that stretch from Afghanistan to Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, South Sudan, Libya, Myanmar, the Mediterranean and beyond is the starting point of our collective sense of indignation and outrage. Our objective is to challenge the inhumanity that destroys lives and tears apart societies by mobilizing our collective commitment so that we are not part of the silence that allows violence to be “normalized”. This will make it more difficult for those who violate these norms to get away with it.
Our initiative is evolving in line with the insights and commitments emerging from a series of on-going consultations in different locations.
Calamity for Civilians
“Aleppo is to Syria today what Guernica was to Spain during its civil war, a martyred city and the harbinger of more disasters to come. Equally, the UN risks becoming in the 21st century what the League of Nations became in the 20th: irrelevant.”
Multiple crises, whether of a political, governance, economic or social nature, drive insecurity and millions of civilians suffer from the gross violation of internationally agreed humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. Maximizing the suffering of civilians through systematic or indiscriminate shelling and deliberate destruction in densely populated areas, the targeting of civilians, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure vital for survival, “starve or surrender” sieges, as well as the denial or abuse of relief assistance have become commonplace in today’s war zones.
The United Nations (UN) is stretched as it struggles to cope with changing geo-political agendas and the erosion of multilateralism. The blockages in the Security Council (UNSC) bring it to the edge of insignificance. Humanitarian operations are asked to do the impossible in terms of saving lives while being used as a substitute for effective political action.
Multilateralism, the search for common ground between states, is in retreat. International diplomacy is marginalized while impunity thrives. Buffeted by nationalism and populism, the so-called international “community” is polarized and unable to mobilize the political will necessary to act collectively to safeguard peace and security for the benefit of people everywhere. Those affected by armed conflict and other crises that put lives at risk expect and need help from the international system. They are often badly disappointed.
This is happening at a time when the numbers of at-risk people are increasing and essential life-saving humanitarian work is often impeded by insecurity or the callous denial of help to those who are most in need. Even though there is no lack of knowledge about the consequences of armed conflict and other means of violence and deprivation, severe cuts to UN and other aid budgets exacerbate suffering and undermine chances of survival. Cuts translate into greater risk and deprivation for the most vulnerable whether stuck in violent conflict settings, undertaking dangerous journeys in search of asylum, or forcibly returned to war zones.
Public opinion is mixed. While some people are indifferent, or even hostile to people on the move in search of safety, others are indignant. They say STOP the outrage of children and their families being slaughtered in their homes, or tortured, killed or treated as lesser human beings when seeking asylum.
Our core question is what can be done NOW to end the slaughter of civilians and dehumanizing policies that put people in danger including measures intended to deter people fleeing for their lives from seeking asylum.
Conscious of the multifaceted nature and underlying causes of crises, our goal is to secure compliance with universal humanitarian values and standards so that civilians are not subjected to the slaughter and savagery of contemporary warfare and survivors receive the safety, help and asylum, as is necessary, for a peaceful and dignified life.
Our objectives are:
Obtain Respect for Humanitarian Norms by the UN Security Council: This will require meaningful UNSC acknowledgement of, and commitment to, the principle that addressing humanitarian need in accordance with international law is a central obligation of all warring parties and of the United Nations. International treaties are binding and cannot be flouted without consequence. The five permanent members (P5) of the UNSC can and must refrain from using their veto when situations of mass atrocity – genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity – are under consideration by the UNSC.
Protect the Integrity of Humanitarian Action. The world needs an independent humanitarian voice that is not constrained by partisan politics. Within the formal, international humanitarian system, the independence of humanitarian action must be respected and safeguarded so that it is not abused or subordinated to political and military considerations, timely access to people in need is not impeded and all programming is impartial, based on need and focused on protective and effective outcomes.
The Way Forward
As consultations with different stakeholders evolve, we envision the development of an overall strategy and plan of action geared (a) to bringing an end to the deliberate or indiscriminate slaughter of civilians by states and non-state armed groups (NSAG) and (b) to restoring respect for humanitarian norms and principles so that the assistance and protection needs of those most at risk are met effectively both within and across crises.
A key strand of the overall strategy is the mobilization of citizens in all countries, as part of a global movement of vigilance and indignation, focused on securing respect for international law and the protection of civilians directly affected by armed conflict including those who are obliged to flee to hold onto their lives. It is envisaged that this movement will involve a range of activities – initiated by international, national and grass-root groups, places of worship, elected local officials, academia and the like – to challenge key stakeholders including UN member states, individually and collectively, and demand that the permanent members of the UN Security Council implement the critical changes that contemporary and disquieting levels of inhumanity require.
In the coming months, as our mobilization grows, we are considering three sets of actions:
- Advocacy on the P5 veto. Collective or dedicated measures to challenge atrocities including war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity will be organized. The UNSC must be challenged through advocacy and other measures to deliver on its responsibilities so that the suffering resulting from its inaction ceases. This includes seeking agreement by the P5 members not to use their veto in situations of mass atrocity, to facilitate the provision of humanitarian support to crisis-affected people, and to not impede action geared to holding alleged perpetrators to account. Collective and national level actions will take account of relevant existing efforts to secure change in the Security Council and develop advocacy and other activities to bring attention to UNSC deficiencies that are a significant factor in war-related suffering..
- Holding perpetrators to account. Leaders and individuals that pursue or allow mass atrocity crimes to be perpetrated need to be held to account at the national level or at the International Criminal Court. When this does not happen, mass mobilization of concerned citizens needs to occur so that alleged perpetrators are judged in the court of public opinion
- Establishing an Independent Humanitarian Watch (IHW). In the absence of the Security Council agreeing on a mechanism that would openly record and publicize atrocities, war crimes and crimes against humanity and hold to account those responsible, an independent mechanism needs to be established. Information collected by, or available to IHW, on specific contexts would be used for advocacy and other initiatives geared to changing the behavior of warring parties. This could be coupled with the development of an independent “Inhumanity Index” of the key violators of international humanitarian law, and their sponsors, taking into account existing mechanisms. Such an Index could track progress and regression concerning compliance with humanitarian norms and responsibilities associated with international refugee law.
Change will not happen if we remain silent and passive. Concerned and outraged citizens and civil society groups need to work together to challenge the status quo. Inaction and indifference endanger the safety of millions and puts in question our common humanity.
It is urgent that, collectively and individually, we say STOP THIS INHUMANITY and affirm that the safety of war-affected people is a responsibility of all citizens of the world. If we do not act, we become accomplices to violence.
This campaign is urgent and necessary but is it feasible? We think so. The establishment of an IHW is an achievable objective. For a relatively small cost, it could fill a crucial gap: at present there is no credible and independent entity that systematically collects, tracks and analyzes violations of humanitarian norms and standards and makes this information available to the general public. The power of credible and timely information, used strategically, should not be underestimated.
All of those responsible for harming and killing civilians and the destruction of vital infrastructure – from warring parties and their sponsors to the UNSC and arms traffickers – need to be challenged so that they desist and change their behaviour. As citizens we can make our voice heard, including at the ballot-box and in the court of public opinion. Governments are sensitive to the reputational damage triggered by their actions. Strong mobilization of public opinion can challenge and sometimes modify the behavior of warring parties. A global movement invested in challenging war-inflicted pain wherever it occurs has the inherent value of bringing together the insights and voices of a multitude of communities and stakeholders.
Together we can make a difference!
At the very least, we must try!
“The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.” (Albert Einstein)
 This document is work in progress and constitutes the provisional result of a first series of consultations. We expect it to evolve as more consultations are held, particularly in humanitarian hubs in the field. Comments and suggestions from readers far and wide are welcome. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org
 Laetitia Atlani-Duault and François Delattre, “Is Aleppo the Grave of the United Nations?” The Lancet, vol. 388, No10059, p.2473, 19 November 2016: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2816%2932122-5/fulltext