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Colombia: Opinion survey on war begins

12-11-1998 News Release 98/45

Deep in the jungle, in sophisticated offices, atop windswept mountains, in army barracks and rebel encampments, ICRC staff in Colombia and 30 Colombian Red Cross volunteers are seeking out and listening to former hostages and hostage-takers, soldiers and guerrilla fighters, security prisoners, civilians driven from their homes by fighting, aid workers, journalists and many others. Whether man, woman or child, all have a story to tell, a personal experience to share, an opinion to give on war.

" The Geneva Conventions are useless " , said one former guerrilla. " They give us dignity and hope, they are one step on the road to peace " , said others. " They need to be adapted to the local culture " , said some. In Colombia, where people are currently being asked what they think about the limits to warfare set by humanitarian law and how compliance with the Geneva Conventions can be improved, everyone has something to say.

These discussions are the first stage of a worldwide survey that is being conducted from November 1998 to August 1999 in a dozen countries affected by armed conflict. The results will be published along with those of a parallel survey carried out in countries at peace. People on War is the name of the overall project, which aims to increase international awareness of the rules for people's protection in wartime and encourage discussion of humanitarian law in relation to modern-day conflict.

The project, marking the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions on 12  August 1999, was launched jointly by the ICRC and the British Red Cross on 10    November at the Imperial War Museu m in London.