Toni Pfanner

Former Editor-in-Chief of the International Review

Dr. Toni Pfanner was the Editor-in-Chief of the International Review of the Red Cross from the beginning of the year 2002 until the end of the year 2010.


  • Editorial: Environment

  • The Paul Reuter Prize 2009, Presentation Ceremony, Geneva, 15 July 2010. Recipient: Dr. Théo Boutruche

    Address by Dr. Toni Pfanner, member of the Paul Reuter Fund Committee

  • Editorial: Urban Violence

  • Editorial: Women

  • Editorial: International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

  • Editorial: Displacement

  • Various mechanisms and approaches for implementing international humanitarian law and protecting and assisting war victims

    This article presents an overview of the mechanisms for improving the lot of people affected by armed conflict. Some are anchored in international humanitarian law, but increasingly, multiple actors contribute to implementing this law outside its original implementation framework. This may result in different approaches to ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law: judicial recourse, public pressure on parties to a conflict, or even recommendations of the use of force. Nevertheless, humanitarian action unattached to any political agenda is often the only means of improving the situation of the victims of armed conflicts.

  • Editorial: War victims

    Wars may create winners and heroes, but they also generate suffering and sacrifice. A victim, in the etymological sense, is in fact a living creature sacrificed in religious rites. The German translation of victim (‘Opfer’) reflects these ideas of sacrifice and suffering, which remain important even in armed conflicts that do not have religious connotations. Contrary to the well-defined battles of the Middle Ages, modern wars – where the distinction between combatants and civilians is blurred and even deliberately disregarded – often demand the sacrifice and suffering of the whole population. War victims are therefore ubiquitous, increasingly recognized and often represented by organizations that compete even amongst themselves to draw attention to their specific plight and to make known the injustices done to them. More than this, a sense of self-perceived collective victimhood emerges as a major theme in societies involved in intractable conflicts, and forms a fundamental part of the collective memory of the conflict.

  • Editorial: Typology of armed conflicts

    The Human Security Report and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) have documented a significant decline in the number and severity of armed conflicts since the end of the cold war. However, the 2008 edition of the Center for International Development and Conflict Management’s Peace and Conflict study indicated that this overall decline in conflicts had stalled. There are different methods of measuring and classifying wars, be it from a historical, behavioural, psychological, economic, sociological or political point of view.

  • Editorial: Direct participation in hostilities

    The phenomenon of civilians taking part in hostilities occurs in all war situations. In the recent conflict in Gaza, controversy raged over whether Israel used indiscriminate force, as the majority of victims were said to be unarmed civilians. Israel defended its actions by claiming that most of the fatalities were Hamas fighters or civilians opposing Israeli forces. In the Iraq war, militias and other fighters not in uniform challenged the world's strongest military power. In Afghanistan the distinction between a peaceful Afghan and a Taliban fighter is difficult to make, often leading to civilian casualties. In Sri Lanka a quarter of a million people – fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) crammed together with the civilian population – were trapped in an area of 250 square kilometres amid intense fighting. In every internal conflict there have been insurgents who were farmers by day and fighters by night. The fighting civilian, seeking protection through a 'revolving door' by again becoming a peaceful peasant, makes it harder for the opposing armed forces to respond effectively and may lead them to conduct erroneous or arbitrary attacks against civilians.

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