Our groups, the OASIS After School Program and the Binghamton Boys & Girls Club, have learned so much since joining the International Humanitarian Law program. We never knew what IHL even was before these past few months. Moreover, we only thought the Red Cross helped with blood donations before learning about the program. The Red Cross IHL program is important because it taught us that IHL ensures wars don’t get out of hand. Everyone deserves human dignity, no matter what crises they are facing.
We learned about 4 IHL principles – Proportionality, Distinction, Unnecessary Suffering, and Military Necessity – which all help us evaluate international situations. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an international court that handles serious cases about war crimes, child soldiers, and other important topics, and makes sure the four principles are followed by all.
We learned that the international age requirement for soldiers is 15 years old. That means anyone younger cannot legally enlist in fighting. In OASIS, we debated a lot about this topic. Should individuals be older? Some in our group said 15 years old is still a very young age. However, others thought that 15 year old individuals might be old enough in some countries due to cultural differences. We also considered the fact that at age 15 many young people start making independent decisions.
Furthermore, we learned that not all child soldiers join voluntarily; in fact, many are forced. Sometimes children join because they need food, shelter, and protection; some join for revenge.
For our project in OASIS, we decided to make a skit that included the topics of child soldiers and international justice, but focused on the former. We didn’t use too many props because we thought that without them we could get our important message across better. The message is that people need to understand what child soldiers are, how serious the problem is, and why the ICC exists. We want people to ultimately be more internationally-minded in general. We think there are serious moral questions about child soldiers. Some join, some are forced. What are the consequences for people involved after the war? In the Boys & Girls Club, we made a Scavenger Hunt where participants immersed themselves in the lives of child soldiers and war like scenarios. These are activities we learned during our Raid Cross training.
Overall, this was a cool experience because it taught us about the world outside the United States. Sometimes you forget you are part of a world bigger than your own community and even country. We hope we can go to Washington, D.C. to present our IHL Action Campaign because we want the chance to meet influential people and learn even more!
For more pictures of the training and what our chapters are engaged in, please visit us here.