Foreword by Sonia Crenn, Reference librarian in international humanitarian law

Categorizing academic writing for the bibliography is not an easy task. In fact, it can be quite a headache. A daring idea may have become the academic consensus or international events may have brought new urgency to a subject. Either way it sometimes feels that, if we could start over, we would categorize a book or article differently.


One example that stands out in the library’s acquisitions in 2015 would be the Strengthening Compliance with International Humanitarian Law report. While it was categorized under “Implementation”, it could also belong under “Contemporary challenges”. The report led to the adoption of a resolution by the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. But despite three years of consultations, States were unable to agree on a new mechanism to strengthen compliance with international humanitarian law.


And yet the need for compliance has never been more pressing. Last year, faced with the worsening plight of civilians in a number of armed conflicts, the ICRC president and the UN secretary-general made an unprecedented joint appeal to all parties to uphold the rules of humanitarian law. The subject is likely to remain an important source of scholarship, with both an issue of the International Review of the Red Cross and a conference cycle on generating respect for humanitarian law this year.


Perhaps we don’t simply need to revisit how we categorize things, but invent a new category altogether. We could call it: “Never-ending challenges”.