men and women struggle to pass a checkpoint. Ahead of them
are obstacles, including minefields and roadblocks. The young
people are clearly identified with bibs and badges. They talk
calmly to the soldiers who aim guns at them.
“We are Red Crescent volunteers. We have come to help
Watching their steps to avoid the dangers, they slowly make
their way towards their goal, a group of people affected by
the conflict who need humanitarian assistance.
It could be anywhere, anytime, in a conflict situation, but
this time it is only a role play, set in the imaginary countryof
Haddar, which is being attacked by neighbouring Deldar. The
young people are volunteers from the Moroccan Red Crescent
who are being trained in Raid Cross, a game designed to increase
their understanding of humanitarian issues in conflict. The
‘mines’ are made of paper and the ‘roadblocks’
are nothing more than overturned chairs. The ‘soldiers’
a re played by Red Crescent volunteers.
Not child’s play
Raid Cross was developed by the French Red Cross and the
French-speaking section of the Belgian Red Cross, and is based
on a role play written by Antoine Grand, a Belgian volunteer
who was also a boy scout. He developed the activity to introduce
young scouts to the basic principles of international humanitarian
law, and then gave the game to the Belgian Red Cross. The
two National Societies developed the game together. It is
being spread throughout the world after an agreement was signed
between the French and Belgian Red Cross, the International
Federation, the ICRC and the World Organization of the Scout
Movement in April 2005.
Raid Cross teaches through seven posts or scenarios that
focus on prisoners of war, the treatment of wounded people,
combatants, humanitarian assistance, military decision-making
or accountability in the aftermath of conflict. Up to 90 people
can play the game at once.
Sarah Viale, dissemination officer for the French Red Cross,
has been involved in Raid Cross since before it took its present
form. “It was quite long and designed specifically for
the scouts,” she says, “but the idea was good.
We simply adapted it to the Red Cross Red Crescent.
“The large, international scout network is a great
venue to spread knowledge of international humanitarian law.
Raid Cross also helps National Societies and national scout
organizations work together and develop their national partnerships.”
Raid Cross has been downloaded in English and French from
FedNet, the International Federation’s extranet, by
Red Cross Red Crescent youth from all parts of the world,
and many national scout organizations are contacting National
Societies to start playing. Raid Cross has been played in
countries as diverse as Armenia, Mauritania and the United
Kingdom. Translations into Arabic and Spanish are in the pipeline.
Viale says the true value of the game is that it has an effect
every time it is played. “The players enjoy the game
and always learn something from it,” she says. “It
has the same success everywhere, even when it’s played
in other countries and cultures.”
Benjamin, 16, who played the game in France, says, “I
couldn’t see war in the same way [afterwards]. It doesn’t
only mean attacking, killing and defending yourself. It means
protecting civilians too and taking care of the wounded, even
if they are enemies.”
At each of the seven posts, participants play different roles,
such as combatants, civilians and humanitarian workers. The
activities are designed to illustrate the different rules
and to show the players their practical application.
Players do not need to be specialists in international humanitarian
law. Any trained volunteer can be a game leader. There is
not one particular profile for participants either. In France,
Raid Cross is mainly played with young adults aged 12 to 18.
But this can vary from one culture and country to another.
The idea is that children and young adults of today need to
learn the laws of war because they are the future citizens,
soldiers and world leaders. Raid Cross teaches them to protect
life and human dignity in times of armed conflict and, by
extension, in all their experiences.
When the training session is over, it is time for the Moroccan
Red Crescent volunteers to test their skills. The first players
are participants at the Fifth Middle East and North Africa
Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference, held in Marrakesh in
“Sir, sir, stop please, you are stepping on mines!”
Confused conference participants, on their way to a coffee
break, suddenly become aware of papers on the ground which
read “Danger! Mines!”
Participants start lifting their feet and watching their
step. Some are asked to put on Red Crescent bibs and carry
food and water across the field. They are then stopped by
guards: “Sir, do you have a badge? Where are you going?”
After passing the minefield at the humanitarian Assistance
post, conference participants encounter an artillery position,
where they are asked to become soldiers and attack targets
with tennis balls. Many civilians and even humanitarian workers
are knocked over.
Participants are shown what they have done: “Do you
think a hospital should have been attacked?” Although
the people are rushing for their coffee, the game engages
them and many stay for a while, playing on and talking to
the game leaders from the Moroccan Red Crescent youth section.
The volunteers also organize Raid Cross demonstrations in
Marrakesh’s busy Jamal el Fna square. In the afternoon,
when the heat fades, the square fills with vendors, medicine
men, storytellers, snake charmers and Red Crescent volunteers
inviting people to their activities. The volunteers involve
schoolchildren and passers-by in activities such as learning
first aid and road safety, and, for the first time, playing
Raid Cross. Schoolchildren line up to become soldiers at the
artillery position, listening attentively as the volunteers
explain the rules of war before stepping up to the front,
armed with tennis balls. Aiming carefully, they throw balls
toward an image on a plastic bottle, hoping to hit a military
The game ends with a trial or general debriefing. Although
the players’ understanding increases while they are
playing the game, where they learn never to leave a wounded
person on the battlefield, and to avoid hitting civilian targets
when they are soldiers, Viale says the trial is where you
can really see the effects of the game.
All game leaders are arrested and the players accuse them
of not following the rules of war. Then the players search
for suitable punishments. Next the teams get the chance to
defend their own actions. Often they say that they felt pressured
into making wrong decisions.
At the end of the discussion, they understand that a trial
is necessary — they might have left a wounded person
on the battlefield or hit a civilian target. Each team is
judged as a whole, to avoid targeting individuals. Sarah Viale
says she only knows of one case where a team was not sentenced
at the end of the trial. In this case, when asked why they
committed war crimes, the team replied: “When we arrived
this morning, you told us we had no choice — we had
to fight. But we are just children and it is against the rules
to make children into soldiers.” This team was pardoned
and sent to an ICRC rehabilitation centre for child soldiers.
At the end of each post, the players are given puzzle pieces.
After the trial, they use their puzzle pieces to rebuild the
country of Haddar. This is the final reward for understanding
and respecting international humanitarian law.