Len Rubenstein, Johns Hopkins University: “The policy is hand-wringing… Total impunity.”

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Leonard Rubenstein is Professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, non-resident Fellow at CSIS, and Chair of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition. He joins us to unpack the Coalition’s 11th annual report on 2023. Four big wars—Ukraine, Myanmar, Gaza, Sudan—are driving up attacks upon civilians, and deaths, to exceptionally high levels. At the same time, attacks on the health sector reached over 2,500 recorded incidents in 2023, a 20% increase over 2022. Attacks on hospitals are often part of a deliberate, targeted military strategy. In other instances, they are a result merely of “contempt and indifference” as combatants wage war indiscriminately. What can be done, if policy is typically “hand-wringing” and “total impunity”? There could be breakthroughs through investigations and prosecutions in Ukraine and the International Criminal Court’s actions in the Israeli-Gaza war. Over time, we do see progress at the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and the World Health Organization.