Images of armed violence
The ICRC recently hosted a workshop of experts in Rolle, Switzerland, who
studied the psychology and anthropology of armed violence. The Humans and
Weapons workshop posed many questions pertinent to the Red Cross and Red
Crescent Movement. For example, is the distance between the user of a weapon
and its victim a factor in international humanitarian law (IHL) violations?
The participants concluded that this must be so; any natural resistance felt
about killing our own species diminishes with distance - something that
seems obvious given news images of modern wars.
One participant demonstrated a strong association of violence in films and
video games with violent crime. Computerized simulators are used to train
soldiers and the police to shoot when required; the same simulators are
marketed as video games. Children and teenagers can become addicted to this
form of screen violence and can condition themselves to shoot to kill even
if they have never handled a real gun before. However, the players of video
games are not subjected to the same rigid discipline as soldiers; films give
them Rambo-style role models. What is the influence of screen violence on
combatants and therefore their potential to violate IHL? Obviously this
question deserves more in-depth analysis and further concern.
A new face
Didier J. Cherpitel became the Federation's new secretary general at the
beginning of this year. Cherpitel worked with the global financial bank, J.P.
Morgan, for much of his career. He has an extensive background in developing
management systems that are accountable and transparent, essential qualities for
earning the trust of governments and donors. A man of energy and enthusiasm, he
has a strong commitment to people development and performance. "The power
of humanity is providing the direction for the Red Cross and Red Crescent
Movement," says Cherpitel. "The power of the people within the
Movement will make it
A home in every village
Le Thi Mich was little prepared for the magnitude of the
disaster and the relief effort that followed when severe
floods hit central Viet Nam last November. The disaster which
killed over 600 people and affected one million others was the
worst in Viet Nam in five decades. A month later floods struck
the same region again killing another 120 people.
"It was a double disaster...we had hardly finished the
emergency phase of relief operation when the floods struck
again," says Mich, vice-chairman of the Thua Thien Hue
provincial chapter of the Viet Nam Red Cross.
Mich was suddenly called upon to supervise relief operations
in the Thua Thien Hue, the worst hit of seven affected
provinces in central Viet Nam. "I had to step in and take
charge at short notice. The conditions were extremely
difficult and the damage extensive. Even the Red Cross office
was flooded and all its equipment damaged," she says.
Temporary headquarters were set up in a hotel room.
A phone in one hand and a hefty file in another, Mich was up
early in the morning, directing relief operations, making
crucial decisions and cutting through the bureaucratic jungle.
Her dynamic energy was infectious.
Today, she is a much wiser person having learnt some hard
lessons. "Flexibility and timely decisions are crucial to
ensure emergency relief reach the most vulnerable people
immediately. Speed is everything in emergency relief. Any
delay is intolerable," she says, adding that despite
major logistical problems the Red Cross succeeded in
delivering the assistance where it was most needed.
She sees the need to enhance and expand the Viet Nam Red Cross
grass-roots network in tandem with the increasing frequency
and severity of disasters. There is also an urgent need for
the Viet Nam Red Cross to build on the capacities of local
communities, she says. "The Red Cross must not just exist
but live in every village in Viet Nam," she says.
The inter-ethnic war in Burundi has claimed not only thousands
of lives but also cut a swathe through the country's
agricultural production - since so many men have either fled
or become involved in fighting. Women, who now make up 70 per
cent of the agricultural workforce, have borne the brunt of
the conflict, facing up to lost relatives and livelihoods with
astonishing stoicism. One example is a women's cooperative
agricultural group just outside the capital, Bujumbura,
started two years ago by 37-year-old Constance Ndayizigiye.
She and her invalid husband fled the north with their eight
children, to find shelter and support in the south. "It
was a tough journey," she recounts, "we were dodging
armed men, hardly eating and hiding in the bush."
Constance approached the Burundi Red Cross to help her find
land to grow crops so that she and other women like her could
feed their families and earn a small income. The association
cultivates several hectares, growing peanuts, rice, beans,
carrots, cassava, cabbages and onions. Two-thirds of the
produce is sold in the market to pay the local authorities
rent for the land, the remaining third is distributed among
the 100 women members. Two of the oldest women, Véronique,
86, and Elizabeth, 65, regularly walk 15 km from their
"regroupement site" - one of about 325 into which
the government has moved the rural population away from rebel
activity. "We're still capable of working," says
Véronique, "and we meet friends here."
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