The Roots of Behaviour in War revisited

On 28 April 2016, the ICRC hosted a panel discussion at the Humanitarium with some of the leading experts involved in the update of the ICRC study "The Roots of Behaviour in War". As part of the ICRC's Conference Cycle on "Generating respect for the law", the panel accompanied the first meeting of these experts in Geneva, highlighting their specific contributions, hypotheses and approaches.

In 2004, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) published a study on the 'Roots of Behaviour in War' that strongly influenced the development of new policies and practices in the ICRC aimed at strengthening respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) among soldiers and fighters. The most important shift was from a focus on disseminating knowledge of the law to one of encouraging its integration into the doctrine, training and disciplinary regimes of armed forces and groups. A decade later, an update study is underway to test the continued pertinence of the 2004 findings and recommendations to the array of armed actors with whom the ICRC interacts today. The aims of the update study are twofold: first, to test what impact the integration of norms of IHL has had on the behaviour of those fighting in vertically-organized groups; and second, to explore how norms of restraint form in horizontally-organized groups and how the ICRC might influence this.


  • Fiona Terry, research coordinator, ICRC
  • Brian McQuinn, research coordinator, ICRC


  • Andrew Bell, post-doctoral research fellow
  • Francesco Gutierrez Sanin, professor, Colombia National University
  • Naomi Pendle, doctoral candidate, London School of Economics
  • Basir Feda, project officer, Berghof Foundation
  • Oliver Kaplan, assistant professor, University of Denver