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Kenya: reaching out to humanitarian professionals

27-11-2012 Feature

With the changing nature of armed conflicts the work humanitarian professionals is becoming more and more complex. For this reason, humanitarian professionals must use a variety of tools to further their work and protect their personnel. One of the tools is international humanitarian law (IHL) that is designed to limit the damage of warfare and protect victims of armed conflict.

IHL provides a normative framework to facilitate humanitarian action for all actors and agencies that are engaged in bringing relief to mitigate suffering caused by armed conflict. Therefore, it is desirable that humanitarian professionals and policymakers are familiar with the basic concepts of IHL and how they work in practice.

The ICRC's regional delegation in Nairobi has therefore been conducting a course for humanitarian professional and policymakers, to equip them with the fundamental concepts of IHL and how they work in practice. 

“The ICRC imparts knowledge on IHL to enhance the capacity of humanitarian professionals to address challenges they face while working in conflict areas,” said the ICRC Regional Legal Adviser in Nairobi, Prof. Umesh Kadam.  

The 17th Course in International Humanitarian Law was held on 16-22 September 2012 in Naivasha, Kenya. The course was attended by 18 professionals working in various contexts around the world and representing a variety of organizations carrying out humanitarian work. The course provided in-depth information on how IHL and other legal instruments protect people during armed conflict and other situations of violence, the relationship between IHL and other legal instruments such as human rights law and refugee law. It also covered conduct of hostilities, special protection for certain categories of people under IHL, ensuring respect for IHL in armed conflict and challenges to humanitarian action in light of the changing nature of armed conflicts and violence.

The course was not only an interactive learning experience but also a forum for networking. The participants were quite appreciative of how the course was conducted and the content of the curriculum.

“My new knowledge and skills on IHL and conduct of hostilities will improve my competence in protection work,” said the Danish Refugee Council Child Protection Coordinator, Eliab Mulili.

The participants benefited from the expertise of a specialist in the field of humanitarian action, Dr Fiona Terry, who facilitated two sessions on the challenges of humanitarian action in today's world. Other facilitators were from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, United Nations-Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Oxfam (Somalia) and ICRC experts from Nairobi, Pretoria and Geneva.

As the course came to an end participants were treated to a sumptuous traditional dinner and a cultural performance which was a perfect ending to an intensive week.


Testimonials from some of the participants of the seminar

Andrea Kenney, IOM (International Organization for Migration) Coordination and Liaison


What is your opinion of the IHL course?

The course has been very comprehensive, and it has covered a good range of topics that relate to IHL in a practical setting, including historical, current, and hypothetical contexts.

How is the course relevant to your work?

Coming from a transitioning, post-conflict environment, having a clearer understanding of these laws, conventions, customs, and knowing who is bound by them and when will empower me to handle future obstacles. 

Migration in North Africa can be a murky issue and whether it is coupled with an armed conflict or not, those of us involved can receive guidance from IHL as well as other frameworks that were presented here.

Based on your expertise, what will you go back with for practical purposes?

The course puts a lot of practical experience into a legal and theoretical perspective. Parts of IHL may not be easy to enforce, but it does provide a highly recognized mode of support to the humanitarian work that we are all trying to do.


Eliab Mulili, Danish Refugee Council Child Protection Coordinator


What has been your experience in the course?

The course for me has been a dream. I have been able to gain new insight into various aspects of humanitarian work.

How is the course relevant to your work?

With my new knowledge and skills, I have improved my competence to continue with protection work. When I am in the field, I am responsible for guiding and interpreting the different situations we come across. I am confident that the information I have received from this course will enable me to make the right decisions when in the field.