Today marks the 65th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the foundational treaties of International Humanitarian Law, which is now universally ratified. In the wake of the American Civil War, Clara Barton established the American Red Cross, dedicating her life to aiding sick, wounded, and hungry soldiers irrespective of their allegiance. The International Humanitarian Law team at the American Red Cross continues her legacy of promoting respect on the battlefield by educating the public on the rules of war and the legal regimes setting limits on the effects of armed conflict.
In order to carry out this mission, the team creates and delivers programs tailored to a myriad of audiences. The demand of such programming is rapidly increasing as our work raises awareness about IHL principles and the importance of preserving human dignity in times of conflict.
For instance, our youth program based on a peer education model has sparked interest among thousands of high school and college students around the country. This past year, 8 Red Cross chapters participated in the IHL Action Campaign reaching over 24,000 young people across the nation. We are now welcoming an additional 4 chapters and will continue educating the next generation of humanitarians through this popular program.
Moreover, as part of our legal education program, we recently launched the “Introduction to IHL: A Primer for Professionals”, a legal education course designed to teach the basics of IHL to lawyers, government officials, military personnel and and others whose understanding of IHL is limited, for whom increased knowledge of the law will improve the execution of their jobs. This course not only discusses the legal framework upon which IHL stands, but also provides opportunities to apply this legal knowledge to current conflict situations around the world.
Last, the team promotes IHL education by convening events on current national and international IHL-related topics. In the past, we have organized workshops, public lectures and open discussions on an array of IHL subjects. The next on our event series is “Human Trafficking and Armed Conflict: A Multidisciplinary Conference” on September 25, 2014 at the American Red Cross, National Headquarters in Washington, DC. This conference aims to bring together practitioners, law enforcement, advocates, lawmakers and academics to discuss human trafficking within the sphere of conflict and emergencies. Particular attention will be paid to gender and migration issues in the trafficking narrative and the event will foster a collaborative discussion on legislative and advocacy practices to combat human trafficking.
From child soldiers and refugees to international justice and gender issues, our team is committed to bring current IHL issues to the forefront of our programming. We invite you to join us in this journey to educate our societies by teaching them that we can find humanity, even in the midst of war.
Author: Yenisleidy Simon, IHL Intern