Lesson for life
ICRC secondary school programme to promote the basic rules and principles of international humanitarian law. Special report
Does going to war mean acting “bespredel”? "When you see your mates drop down on the ground, when you take your dead and wounded to the hospital, this is when hatred rises within you. And the hatred is against all enemies, not just the individuals who killed your friends. This is when bespredel starts."
CIS army officer (Newspaper interview, September 2000)
Bespredel (byes-pre-dyel) – literally " without limits " – means acting outside the rules, violently and with impunity. This Russian term, coined in the 1990s, sums up the mechanism that sets in whenever inhumane acts are perpetrated by armed people against the defenceless, everywhere, on all sides. To counter the dynamics of bespredel is one of the core concerns of international humanitarian law (IHL). In a world of violence, the ICRC, known for its humanitarian action in armed conflict, is committed to promoting IHL concepts among young people.
The secondary school programme in 7 countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), begun in 1995, is one of the ICRC's longest-running and most ambitious preventive action programmes, and the only educational programme of such scope run by a single organization in the region. Every year, it reaches out to more than 5.5 million youngsters aged 11- 17 and thousands of teachers in the Russian Federation, the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia.
To put IHL on the map in this vast region where it was barely known, the ICRC first had to win the trust of the authorities, education specialists and teachers and convince them of the benefits of the programme. It then produced, printed and ensured the distribution of some 11 million course books for pupils and teachers'guides. Working through local teams of education specialists, it trained hundreds of teachers and teacher trainers. The programme is now up and running in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, th e Russian Federation, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Independent evaluations have shown the course books developed in the framework of this programme are widely used and appreciated by pupils, teachers and parents, as well as by the authorities. Intensive efforts are being pursued to anchor IHL teaching in national school education standards and course curricula.
In view of the education authorities'scarce resources, the ICRC is determined to ensure the continuation of the programme, consolidating and building on the achievements made during the first phase. As a matter of priority, it will concentrate on strengthening teacher training to build up a large enough network of educators committed to the promotion of humanitarian concepts; develop promotional tools to spark broad interest in IHL; seek to extend IHL education to specialized military secondary schools; pursue efforts to have IHL included in education standards and course curricula, as well as in pre-service and inservice teacher training; and continue to facilitate implementation and provide expertise and technical support. To be able to achieve this, the ICRC is now looking for partners interested in taking over, partially or completely, the financing of the programme.