Lack of compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL), which can result in unlawful deaths, destruction and impediments to humanitarian relief operations, is a tremendous humanitarian
challenge (Akande and Gillard, 2017; Kremte, 2017; Pejic, 2016). In order to achieve the main goal of IHL – to protect persons affected by violence and minimise human suffering – the mere existence of law is not sufficient. It must be coupled with a strong compliance system (Kremte, 2017). Compliance requires a multifaceted effort involving a range of activities by a diverse group of
actors. They include prevention activities, such as the adoption of domestic legislation implementing IHL treaty obligations, training of armed forces and appointment of legal advisers to the armed forces, and teaching and dissemination of IHL to the general public (Kremte, 2017). They also include ‘naming and shaming’ violators; and mechanisms and procedures for determining individual criminal responsibility for alleged violations of IHL, such as the creation of international or hybrid courts and tribunals or proceedings before domestic courts (Pejic, 2016).
This rapid literature review reveals a significant gap in evidence on the cost-efficiency of efforts to promote compliance with international humanitarian law. This has yet to be an area of research.
The only relevant studies that could be found focus on the cost-efficiency of international criminal justice, comparing the costs of international courts, hybrid courts, and domestic courts. While
international criminal tribunals are considered to be more costly overall, this is due to their greater complexity. They are not more costly than the most similar domestic trials or hybrid trials when
evaluated on a per-day basis. This is considered to be a better way to measure cost-effectiveness. The effectiveness of international criminal law (ICL) also depends on whether it fulfils the various
aims of ICL (e.g. justice for victims, accountability, deterrence, reconciliation).
Given the lack of research on the cost-effectiveness of other initiatives related to IHL compliance, their general effectiveness is explored in this helpdesk report. Research on the dissemination of IHL, such as educational programmes and training for the military and civilians reveal an overall increase in scholarship on IHL, in terms of educational tools, research, publications and outreach. This has the potential to impact on compliance should those receiving education and training end up in positions of authority and decision-making. Research in this area does not examine issues of cost-effectiveness, however. It is also challenging to determine general effectiveness, due to difficulties with attribution (e.g. whether a course on IHL in peace-time prevents violations of IHL during wartime). Research on monitoring and exposure of IHL violations also have the potential to contribute to the promotion of compliance with IHL. Deeds of Commitment, a monitoring and verification mechanism directed at armed non-state actors, for example, can be effective in ensuring improved compliance with IHL. Advancements in social media can allow for more widespread and rapid monitoring and exposure of violations and abuses. In addition, national IHL committees can help in promoting the dissemination of IHL and monitoring of violations of and compliance with IHL. The integration of these committees in high levels of government can contribute to the greater promotion of and compliance with IHL. Studies on ‘naming and shaming’ violators of IHL find that in some cases, this strategy can be linked to improvements in compliance with IHL and human rights practice. Sanctions may be implemented alongside ‘naming and shaming’, however, the need to monitor sanctions can make it a costly IHL initiative.