Choosing humanity: new video and online game challenge us to confront how numb we have become to abuses to the rules of war

07 November 2017

Geneva (ICRC) - The ICRC this week launches a new phase in its public awareness campaign on the need and relevance of the laws of war.

Today a hard-hitting video shockingly reminds us that in times of war, civilian casualties are the result of choices, not accidents. Through a young boy's morning routine somewhere in a country at war, the short video "Decisions" shows how it is the choice to respect the laws of war that can protect civilians and save lives.

"Don't be Numb", an online game, provides younger generations with a new way of engaging with the Geneva Conventions. The interactive microsite contains a quiz, data visualization, and information on the laws of war. It will test Millennials and Generation Z audiences on the choices they think matter in a conflict and their knowledge of the basic principles of humanity that underline the Geneva Conventions – especially critical now to ensure younger generations do not grow up without an understanding of the importance of the rules of war.

ICRC's People on War survey, conducted last year with 17,000 people in 16 countries, indicates overwhelming support in the belief that wars should have limits. Eight in ten people surveyed think combatants should avoid civilians as much as possible when attacking the enemy. The same number thinks attacking hospitals, ambulances and healthcare workers, in order to weaken an enemy, is wrong.

However, it also reveals deeply concerning views on torture and civilian casualties. Only 50% of those surveyed in the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States) and Switzerland considered it wrong to attack the enemy in populated areas knowing many civilians would be killed.

"Wars without limits are wars without end. People around the world strongly believe that limits must be imposed on war, and those living in the daily realities of conflict still believe that limits prevent conflicts from spiralling," said ICRC President Peter Maurer. "But in many situations we see a shocking lack of respect for the basic principles of international humanitarian law when it comes to the conduct of hostilities, the way war is being waged and the way weapons are being used."

As a humanitarian organization that has, since its creation, played a leading role in promoting, developing and safeguarding the laws of war, the ICRC is alarmed that many today take as normal the fact that civilians are targeted, hospitals bombed, prisoners executed. The ICRC is concerned that young people growing up today will become a generation inured to the tragic effects of conflict and the dangers of allowing the rules of war to erode.

"The basic foundations of our shared humanity are being challenged. We cannot allow the bombing of civilians or attacks on hospitals to become acceptable, to become the new normal," said President Maurer. "The people suffering in wars deserve nothing less than respect for the laws that will protect their lives and dignity."

The film, available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Portuguese, invites viewers to visit to learn more on the Geneva Conventions.

The quiz can be taken at in English, French or Spanish.

These two educational mediums will be promoted on Facebook and other social channels. The film was created in collaboration with the advertising agency Sra.Rushmore in Madrid, Spain.

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Note to editors: The Geneva Conventions, a set of rules established in 1949 that protects people around the world from the atrocities of war, have been ratified by all 196 States, making them universally binding. The four Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols seek to limit the effects of warfare on those who do not participate in hostilities, such as civilians or wounded and captured combatants.

The deliberate targeting of civilians is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, and so are indiscriminate attacks against populated towns and villages. Every possible precaution must be taken to avoid harming civilians and their houses, or destroying their means of survival, such as water sources, crops, livestock, etc. Civilians have a right to receive the help they need, and the targeting of aid workers and medical personnel is prohibited.

For further information, please contact:
Matt Clancy, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 574 15 54
Juliette Ebele, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 949 35 12