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Red Cross and Red Crescent Millennium: People on war

The International Red and Red Crescent Movement will use the occasion of the new millennium to promote the Fundamental Principles and explore its role in meeting the humanitarian challenges of the 21st century. From 8 May 1999 to 8 May 2000, a series of celebrations, programmes and campaigns will be organized by the ICRC, the International Federation and the 175 National Societies. Key events include 'Dance the World' planned for 8 May 1999, "Profiling 2,000 volunteers', the 5Otb anniversary of the Geneva Conventions on 12 August 1999 and the 27th International Conference of theRed Cross and Red Crescent.

From now until the year 2000, the Red Cross, Red Crescent magazine will profile the wide variety of activities taking place. In this issue, the ICRC’s campaign to promote the Geneva Conventions - People on war - is highlighted.

People on war

12 August will mark the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions - the most important international instruments for protecting human dignity in war. The conventions are among, the most widely ratified treaties in the world and have brought protection to countless numbers of people. However, suffering in war today is widespread and increasingly targets civilians. This deserves attention and demands action. 'We are witnessing conflicts whose very aim is to exterminate certain communities or ethnic groups, and in which the most atrocious crimes - including attacks on humanitarian workers - are committed as part of the war strategy. Promoting and respecting humanitarian law is thus of paramount importance if we don't want barbarity to triumph over civilization," exclaims Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the ICRC.



Even wars have limits

The ICRC is organizing a campaign to promote the conventions and their relevance in the brutal and chaotic context of modern day warfare; in the hope of better protecting civilians caught in armed conflict. From November 1998 to August 1999 staff will ask thousands of people from war-torn countries to share their personal experiences, views on the limits of warfare and thoughts on improving respect of humanitarian law. The opinions of groups especially affected - refugees, displaced people, mine victims, relatives of missing people, prisoners of war - will be gathered.

A similar survey will be undertaken in countries at peace, in cooperation with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Special efforts will be made to consult the military, the principal 'users' of humanitarian law

The results of the consultations will be made public in the hope of generating a worldwide debate on international humanitarian law among people with an interest in the subject, including government and military legal authorities, community leaders, academics, journalists, aid worker and staff of international organizations. At the same time, the ICRC will share the results with the communities who participated in the surveys to contribute to local discussions and efforts to assist victims of armed conflict.

A special Internet site will be created which will include, excerpts from people's accounts of their experiences, the results of the worldwide opinion survey and information on the campaign's progress. The purpose is to stimulate an, interactive debate among experts and ordinary citizens from around the globe. The site will offer journalists direct access to human interest stories/features and documentaries. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will promote the campaign through their media channels. A variety of printed materials will also be made available, including publications, photos, audiovisuals and a final report on the results of the consultation.

Globally, the campaign aims to raise public awareness of existing international humanitarian rules and their importance in warfare. And while the campaign has many facets, ultimately it is being carried out for one reason only: to give better protection to people in times of armed conflict.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 are founded on the idea of limiting and preventing human suffering in times of armed conflict. People not directly taking part in hostilities and those put out of action through sickness, injury, captivity or any other cause must be respected and protected against the effects of war; those who suffer must be aided and cared for without discrimination.

The Additional Protocols of 1977 supplement this protection by strengthening the rules governing the conduct of hostilities.

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