Cost-Effectiveness in Humanitarian Work: the Promotion of International Humanitarian Law

21st September 2019
Author: Huma Haider

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. Given the lack of research on cost-effectiveness of other initiatives related to IHL compliance, their general effectiveness is explored in this helpdesk report. Research on 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 war-time). 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 dissemination of IHL and monitoring of violations 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.

Suggested Citation

Haider, H. (2018). Cost-effectiveness in humanitarian work: the promotion of international humanitarian law. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies


21st September 2019


Continent: Global