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Brookings event: understanding armed groups and the law

07-05-2012 Article

On 30 March 2012, the International Review of the Red Cross had its first launch in the United States. In conjunction with the Brookings Institution, the ICRC regional delegation for North America organized a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. on the nature of armed groups in the world today, the applicable law and the challenges of engagement with these groups.

Hosted by the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement, the launch featured a discussion on armed groups drawing on the latest edition of the Review, “Understanding Armed Groups and the Applicable Law”. The panel was composed of Vanda Felbab-Brown (Fellow, Foreign Policy, 21st Century Defense Initiative), Marco Sassòli (Professor and Director of International Law, University of Geneva) and Vincent Bernard (Editor-in-Chief, International Review of the Red Cross). The discussion was moderated by Elizabeth Ferris (Co-Director, Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement).

The discussion covered the challenges in understanding armed groups and their diversity and in ensuring that such groups obey the law. Vanda Felbab-Brown discussed the implications for local populations of an ever-increasing number of “non-State-governed spaces.” Marco Sassòli presented his arguments in favour of rethinking the way international law addresses armed groups, drawing on his most recent contribution in the Review. Vincent Bernard completed the discussion with a presentation on the operational challenges of engaging with armed groups, based on the ICRC’s experience.

The panel generated great interest, attracting around 150 attendees from governments, think tanks, academic circles and NGOs. This event was a first step towards generating greater interest for the International Review of the Red Cross in North America while contributing to debate and reflection on the some of the most pressing contemporary humanitarian challenges.


Elizabeth Ferris, Vanda Felbab-Brown, Marco Sassòli and Vincent Bernard at Brookings. 

Elizabeth Ferris, Vanda Felbab-Brown, Marco Sassòli and Vincent Bernard at Brookings.