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The People on War project

25-03-1999 News Release 99/12

Half way there...

Officially launched last November, fine-tuned in Colombia the previous month, the ICRC's People on War project has reached its halfway mark. The consultation aimed at assessing the opinions of hundreds of people on war has now been completed in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Philippines, South Africa, Lebanon and Somalia. In all, six country situations out of the dozen or so planned. Still to come: Georgia-Abkhazia, Nigeria, El Salvador and Afghanistan, plus one or two other locations for which official authorization to begin the consultation is still pending.

The consultation has been proceeding satisfactorily despite logistical and unforeseen obstacles. In Somalia, for example, the extremely volatile situation and general lawlessness in the country made it very difficult for people to gather in a serene environment and talk about the question of ethics in war. In South Africa, the consultation team rediscovered townships that had been bitterly divided in the past and a KwaZulu-Natal where the wounds of earlier violence were slowly healing.

The net result so far has been a commitment from people from extremely diverse communities to discuss their problems and the values they uphold. The final step will be to draw up country reports analysing the ethical standards that were applied to each context. The aim of the project, which is closely linked to the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions on 12 August this year, is to promote an international debate on the concept of limits in war - in other words the fact that being in conflict with another group of people, for whatever reasons, does not justify inhumane behaviour. An overall report covering all countries will be drafted for the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent next November.