Philippines: New ICRC exhibit shows severe impact of war in cities

Philippines: New ICRC exhibit shows severe impact of wars on cities

Armed conflicts are increasingly being fought in urban areas. Wars in cities cause innumerable suffering to civilians, disrupting their livelihoods, the education of children, and the delivery of essential services. From Marawi to Mariupol, the world has witnessed how urban conflicts have resulted in destruction, poverty, and death.
Article 22 August 2022 Philippines

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in partnership with the Embassy of Switzerland in the Philippines and the Intramuros Administration, launched on August 18 the "War in Cities" exhibit, which features objects that were found following the armed conflicts in Iraq, and the Philippines, specifically from Marawi and Zamboanga. The exhibit, held as part of commemorations of international humanitarian law (IHL) month in the Philippines, is open to the public from August 19 to 31 at the Baluartillo de San Francisco tunnel in the historic Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila.

L-R: Céline Fürst, deputy head of mission of the Embassy of Switzerland to the Philippines; Boris Michel, head of delegation of ICRC in the Philippines; and John "Rancho" Arcilla, Senior Tourism Operations Officer, Intramuros Administration. ©ICRC

Yesterday's launch event featured a multidisciplinary panel discussion composed of Ambeth Ocampo, professor of history at the Ateneo de Manila University; Col. Alvin Luzon, Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Philippine Army; and William Corkill, Head of the ICRC Philippines' Water and Habitat team. They discussed the humanitarian challenges posed by conflicts in urban areas and the ways in which authorities can encourage and reinforce respect for IHL in these situations.

Prof. Ambeth Ocampo chats with ICRC Philippines head of Delegation Boris Michel as they examine the exhibit. Beside them is a dish organizer riddled with bullet holes due to the 2013 conflict in Zamboanga City. ©ICRC

In his opening remarks, Boris Michel, Head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippines, said that the Philippines was an active participant in the multilateral process, led by Ireland, to develop a Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas. The Declaration was finalized this year and will be opened for signature in the coming months. The Declaration includes a strong, clear statement that States need to change the way that they plan and conduct hostilities in populated areas to protect civilians and civilian objects from harm.

ICRC Philippines head of delegation Boris Michel delivers his opening remarks for the panel discussion on War in Cities. L-R (seated): Panel moderator Sahar Haroon, ICRC regional legal adviser; and panelists, Ambeth Ocampo, professor of history, Ateneo de Manila University; Col. Alvin Luzon, Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Philippine Army; and William Corkill, Head of the ICRC Philippines' Water and Habitat team. ©ICRC

This is a significant step towards better protection for populations living in urban centers, and is an excellent demonstration of commitment to international humanitarian law. We are encouraging all States to endorse the Declaration when it opens for signature, and to fully implement its positions.

- Boris Michel, Head of Delegation, ICRC Philippines

The "War in Cities" exhibit was first mounted by the ICRC in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2017. This traveling exhibit provides the public a glimpse of the humanitarian needs and resilient spirit of those who lived through urban warfare.

Visitors can expect to see a disfigured doll recovered from the rubbles of a home in Iraq, a badly damaged desk sourced from a school in Zamboanga, and drawings made by children affected by the Marawi conflict, among others. The exhibit will also show audio-visual materials from the ICRC archives dating back to 1922, and audio excerpts of testimonies by former ICRC staff and from other people affected by urban conflict.

A muddy teddy bear, a partly burned doll, and a woman's handbag are just some of the found objects from conflict-affected cities in Iraq that are on display at the "War in Cities" exhibit in Fort Santiago, Intramuros, until August 31. ©ICRC

The exhibit is free although entrance to Fort Santiago is P75 for adults and P50 for students, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities. To know more about the exhibit, please visit the exhibit event page or the ICRC Philippines' Facebook page.