How the Biden Administration Can Better Protect Health Care in War
Deep in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed despite President Donald Trump’s veto, lies a modest provision, section 1299J, that provides the Biden administration with an opportunity for a foreign policy and human rights trifecta: Reforming military operational practice to be more consistent with the nation’s values and commitment to international law; providing global leadership in securing compliance with Geneva Conventions’ requirements to protect and respect health care; and advancing access to health care for people in war-torn countries in the next pandemic.
Together with other straightforward policy initiatives, including excluding medical care and humanitarian aid providers from risk of counterterrorism prosecutions, strengthening the World Health Organization’s tracking of the violence, and reforming policies on arms transfers to governments that breach international law, the administration could advance the security of health care globally.
Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Chris Smith (D-NJ), the co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the House, sponsored the amendment. It requires the Department of Defense to report to Congress on actions taken in response to a request by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter in 2016 to review rules of engagement, directives, and practices to ensure that they conform to principles of protection of medical care in armed conflict based on the Geneva Conventions.