Dissemination: spreading knowledge of humanitarian rules

IRRC No. 319

Table of contents

  • A note from the Editor

    This issue of the Review is devoted to a topic which might appear academic at first glance but is in fact closely linked to action, namely the dissemination of the fundamental principles and basic rules of international humanitarian law among all those who have to respect the law or ensure that it is respected when conflict breaks out. Admittedly, it is hard to establish with any degree of certainty whether and in what way individual attitudes and behaviour patterns have been changed by dissemination work and to determine whether its goals have been reached. Yet surely it is even more difficult to spread knowledge of the law among those responsible for the spiral of violence in modern conflicts, and especially to do so effectively. Therein lies one of the major challenges facing us today.

  • Teaching young people to respect human dignity

    Young people are the focus of special interest in studies on the humanitarian, social and political situation throughout the world. As victims, their plight attracts particular attention on account of their vulnerability, which is recognized in all cultures everywhere - albeit with considerable variation in views as to the age of reaching adulthood. If they belong to deviant groups such as street children, criminals, children outside the school system or child soldiers, they are treated as victims, permanent outcasts or a threat, depending on where they are and what they do. Lastly, those who belong to a controlled group, in other words those enjoying a normal social and/or school life, are subject to demands which are all the greater given their elders - own disarray in face of the accelerated pace of change at the turn of the century, and the adults - desire to prepare the rising generation to cope with an uncertain future.
    Édith Baeriswyl, Head of the Youth Sector of the ICRC’s Division for the Promotion of International Humanitarian Law

  • For whom do humanitarian organizations speak? A few thoughts about dissemination

    Countries at peace have a hard time understanding wars. That is why humanitarian organizations are so often asked to comment on and explain hostilities to the outside world. At a time when humanitarian operations are being carried out ever closer to the actual fighting, media coverage of the fighting largely aimed at a far-away audience, at the West is growing on television screens around the world. In order to stand out against the competition, to be visible to donors, to raise funds or to denounce atrocities, humanitarian organizations are increasingly joining the race for air time, and their survival may depend on how they place. Yet because they speak continually for and to the West and because they appear time and again on television, it is on the basis of this media image which has the effect of underscoring their allegiance to the Western world that the warring parties end up forming an opinion about these organizations activities. The rejection being suffered ever more frequently by humanitarian organizations in the field is very likely strengthened, and sometimes even caused, by such jockeying for media exposure; for that exposure enhances the perception that they belong to an ideological camp whose political, economic and cultural interests are one of the issues at stake in today's major conflicts.
    Vincent Lusser
    Jean-Luc Chopard

  • Reflections on a dissemination operation in Burundi - Declaration for standards of humanitarian conduct: Appeal for a minimum of humanity in a situation of internal violence

    This paper is dedicated to the memory of Benoît and Stanislas, Burundian friends who were working on this dissemination project. The idea of the dissemination project described in the present article first came up at the end of 1993, when what is known as inter ethnic violence broke out in Burundi following the attempted coup of October 1993 and the assassination of President Ndadaye together with a number of other leading figures.
    Édith Baeriswyl, Head of the Youth Sector of the ICRC’s Division for the Promotion of International Humanitarian Law
    Alain Aeschlimann

  • Dissemination in Bosnia and Herzegovina lessons learned

    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been assisting the victims of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia since June 1991. Six years on, its delegates are still active in the region, addressing the lasting consequences of the conflict, but as the situation has evolved so has the nature of their work. This is particularly true of dissemination, which began as a concerted effort to promote greater understanding of international humanitarian law and the ICRC’s role and mandate, but which has now been redirected towards meeting the needs of the post-conflict environment.
    Norman Farrell, Canadian citizen, is coordinator for ICRC dissemination activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, based in Sarajevo

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

    A “one-man show” — in other words, going it alone. Living a fringe existence within the ICRC delegation, having knowledge at one’s fingertips and spreading it oneself: that was how many of the dissemination delegates in the ICRC thought of themselves, and to some extent this image did match reality. And yet...
    Roland Bigler, ICRC delegate

  • Training the armed forces to respect international humanitarian law:The perspective of the ICRC Delegate to the Armed and Security Forces of South Asia

    This paper will briefly examine the legal obligation placed on States to respect international humanitarian law and to train their armed forces in the subject. The practical problems this can create and how they might be overcome will also be addressed. The approach taken by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to training in general and the particular approach being used in South Asia will be discussed.
    David Lloyd Roberts, MBE, is a retired officer of the United Kingdom’s armed forces

  • Promoting international humanitarian law in higher education and universities in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States

    Any attempt to spread knowledge of international humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict) and its corresponding obligations among the military and political authorities of a country must be matched by an effort to introduce the subject into academic programmes, where the subject will be taught and studied in greater depth.
    Stéphane Hankins, Dissemination Delegate, ICRC Moscow

  • The International Institute of Humanitarian Law (San Remo) and its international military courses on the law of armed conflict

    There are few institutions in the world which are able to assemble officers from all the countries of the globe, who wear their own uniforms and live and work together for two weeks. One of these is the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo, Italy. This non-governmental organization was set up in 1970 for the purpose of promoting the dissemination and development of international humanitarian law. The choice of the Italian seaside resort of San Remo was not accidental. It was there that Alfred Nobel spent the last years of his life, and he left all his property to the humanitarian cause. The villa he occupied until his death became the headquarters of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law.
    Giorgio Blais, Director of Military Studies of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, San Remo, Italy

  • Death of Hans Bachmann, honorary member of the ICRC

    Mr Bachmann had a long career in the service of the ICRC. A lawyer by profession, he joined the institution in early 1942, in the middle of the Second World War. He immediately occupied senior posts under Carl Burckhardt and in relief operations, playing a key role in the Joint Relief Commission and especially in the Foundation for the organization of Red Cross transport, which he was instrumental in setting up.

  • The ICRC Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law

    Becoming party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, their Additional Protocols of 1977 and other treaties of international humanitarian law is but a State’s first step in complying with that law. It must be followed by action at the national level to ensure implementation of the different provisions. That action can take various forms ranging from the adoption of national laws and regulations to the location and appropriate marking of buildings and other objects protected by the humanitarian law.

  • Announcement by the Red Cross Society of China

    By letter of 30 June 1997, the ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies sent an announcement to all National Societies whereby the Red Cross Society of China informed that the Hong Kong Red Cross will transfer its affiliation from the British Red Cross to the Red Cross Society of China. The accepted short title will be the “Hong Kong Red Cross (Branch of the Red Cross Society of China)”.

  • Books and reviews: "Children: The invisible soldiers"

    Over the past few years an international movement to prohibit the recruitment and participation in hostilities of children under 18, in line with the general age of majority stipulated in Article 1 of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, has gained momentum. It must be noted that under Article 38 of that same Convention, which was inspired by the 1977 Additional Protocols to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the minimum age set for child soldiers is 15 years.
    Stéphane Jeannet, ICRC Legal Division

  • Recent publications (Summer 1997)