Singapore: What do youth think of international humanitarian law?

31 July 2018
Singapore: What do youth think of international humanitarian law?
Participants engaged in lively discussions at the summit. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Lili Chin

International Humanitarian Law  (IHL) may be easy to understand by those with legal knowledge, but can seem really complicated to others, especially the young.

Simply put, IHL seeks to limit the effects of armed conflict. It aims to protect people who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities and limits the means and methods of warfare.

Recently, when the Singapore Red Cross organized the Singapore Humanitarian Youth Summit, it was interesting to hear the participants discuss IHL and what it meant to them. Attended by close to 100 people between the ages of 17 and 30, from Singapore and four other neighbouring countries, the summit focused on issues like social inclusion of the elderly, blood donation and migration.

One of the sessions, which was organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), focused on IHL for youth. After the session, we asked some of the participants what they thought about the law.

Here’s what they had to say:

"I learnt that IHL is a law that protects us during war and its underlying principle is human dignity. When it comes to human dignity, everyone is equal and nobody’s dignity should be violated." – Metinee Jongsri, Thailand

"The application of humanitarian law ensures respect for the life and dignity of people." – Chin Kar Wei, Malaysia

"IHL limits the effects of warfare. Knowledge about IHL impacts us all since we are global citizens. Though I’m young, I could help by raising awareness about the law." – Annabel, Singapore

"To me, IHL is about humanity, distinction, proportionality and military necessity. I also learnt that humanitarian law is different from human rights. I will explain to my friends why the law is important for them." – Chong Cheng Yang, Malaysia

"IHL protects those not involved in hostilities and limits the effects of armed conflict for humanitarian reasons. The law allows humanitarians and volunteers to fully focus on helping people in conflict zones." – Mark John Martin, Singapore

"Humanitarian law taught me that we must treat others respectfully and equally no matter where we are, and expect the same from them." – Tarika, Thailand