IRRC No. 895/896

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the promotion of international humanitarian law: Looking back, looking forward

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In a globalizing world marked by geopolitical upheaval, unprecedented threats to human security, new forms of violence and technological revolutions, particularly in the area of information technology, it is no simple task to raise awareness of international humanitarian law (IHL) applicable to armed conflict and ensure that warring parties comply with this body of law. This article traces the history of the International Committee of the Red Cross's (ICRC) work in promoting IHL from 1864 to the present, juxtaposing this history with important events in international relations and with the organization's (sometimes traumatizing) experiences that ultimately gave rise to innovative programmes. The article summarizes lively debates that took place at the ICRC around such topics as the place of ethics in the promotion of IHL, respect for cultural diversity in the various methods used to promote this body of law, and how much attention should be devoted to youth – as well as the most effective way to do so. The author concludes by sharing her personal views on the best way to promote IHL in the future by drawing on the lessons of the past. Keywords: international humanitarian law, history, dissemination, promotion, integration, implementation, education, prevention, culture, ethics.

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