BYU Law Review


Humanitarian assistance is not carried out in a vacuum. As urban warfare historically complicates humanitarian aid’s access to civilians in war zones, Ukraine, having suffered and still facing highly publicized violence in civilian-dense areas, has encountered dire obstacles in acquiring necessary resources for civilians’ survival, including both direct and incidental attacks on humanitarian access. Thus, it is vital the international legal community take measures to mitigate current and future dangers of urban warfare, as well as design new solutions, such as strengthening current international law under which obstructing humanitarian access constitutes a violation of jus cogens principles, attempting to induce countries to move away from conflict in civilian-populated areas, supporting previously attempted alleviations such as “safe zones” and humanitarian corridors, and boosting the concrete legal status of NGOs’ and other organizations’ neutrality, to ensure easier access to humanitarian aid in present and future war zones.

In Part II (Part I being an introduction), this paper will first lay a foundation of the history of humanitarian assistance in armed conflict and civilians’ rights to humanitarian assistance in armed conflict. Part III will introduce the history of urban warfare, then discuss common obstacles to humanitarian assistance (whether intentionally or unintentionally caused by States), specifically in situations of urban warfare. Part IV will examine how Ukraine has experienced and is currently experiencing humanitarian access issues, and the applicable obligations which involved States have failed to uphold. Finally, Part V will discuss potential solutions to the difficulty facing aid workers in Ukraine and other urban armed conflict situations where civilians are impacted.


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