Disseminating international humanitarian law in Colombia. Dissemination is everyone's job — a firsthand report by an ICRC delegate

31 August 1997 Roland Bigler

At an ICRC seminar on training and information techniques a few years ago an instructor described the position of a dissemination delegate within an ICRC delegation, and hence of dissemination work in general, as follows:

"Within an ICRC delegation, the delegate responsible for disseminating international humanitarian law generally has his office at the end of a long corridor, right at the back between the office supplies cupboard and the toilets. But most of the time you won't find him there, as he (or she) is constantly out giving courses or suchlike, either at military installations or universities or among the National Red Cross Society's volunteers. And when you do find him for a short while in his office, he's fiddling around with scissors, paper and glue trying to put together a leaflet or a poster, or perhaps even a small brochure. His colleagues, the delegates dealing with the distribution of relief supplies, the tracing service or prison visits, smile indulgently when they see the dissemination delegate busy with work like that. They speak well of him because he regularly reads the International Review of the Red Cross and knows the ins and outs of international humanitarian law and ICRC policy; he is a good talker, so he always has to step in where armed protagonists in local conflict fail to observe the rules protecting the civilian population. He must often beware of being torn to pieces and is expected to be everywhere at once, because what he does, he alone can do. Many ICRC delegates admire the dissemination delegate; sometimes he gets called the professor, the clown or the artist. His work is a one-man show, and yet those delegates who distribute rice, visit prisoners or try to trace missing persons could not and would not want to do his job themselves."

About the author

Roland Bigler
ICRC delegate

His last mission was in Bogota, Colombia, where he worked as ICRC delegation coordinator for dissemination and communication.