27th International Conference
of the Red Cross and Red Crescent



Organiser: ICRC

The overall results of the worldwide survey conducted among people affected by war, and organized by the ICRC to mark the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, were presented by Yves Sandoz, director of the ICRC's Law and Communication department, in a plenary session of the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent on 1 November, 1999.

The presentation was followed by a workshop on the same topic.

Stanley Greenberg, chairman of the opinion-research firm commissioned by the ICRC to assist it in defining the methodology inherent to all opinion polls, opened the debate with comments on the final results. At the same time, copies of the final report were distributed to the participants. During the ensuing discussions, participants remarked on the survey and asked questions, while panelists Yves Sandoz and Stanley Greenberg responded to their queries and commented on their remarks.

1. Why did the ICRC undertake the survey, and what will it do with the results? Like other humanitarian organizations, the ICRC has acted as spokesperson for the victims of war for decades. It felt that the people directly affected by war should have the chance to speak for themselves, and that the process should be carried out methodically. The final results indicate that a number of humanitarian activities need to be considered in a new light, and the ICRC intends to take these indications into account in the months and years to come. In particular, mention was made of the dissemination of the rules and principles of IHL.

2. A follow-up survey? The participants suggested that a follow-up survey be carried out among all those who bear weapons in armed conflicts, whether they are members of regular armies or of unofficial armed groups. A discussion was also held as to whether any added value would be derived from such a survey, or one containing questions specifically on the prevention of conflicts. While no firm conclusions emerged from these discussions, it did seem evident that the prevention of conflicts was a topic that must be kept high on the agenda, particularly the agendas of National Societies.

3. What benefits have been derived from the survey? Representatives of several countries and/or National Societies in which the survey took place expressed their satisfaction at having played a role in this worldwide exercise. They recognized the survey as being both challenging and useful, and saw it as a catalyst for ideas for future action (such as providing people as well as national and local actors with the power to take action, organizing debates, etc.).


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