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Women could improve war

I refer to Issue 1-1995. In the face of the historical tendency of women to be innocent victims of war, it is a strange paradoxical twist in current world affairs that women are increasingly being empowered to actually participate in war – either as combatants or, more likely at present, in military support roles.

Rightly or wrongly, I like to think that the prospect of women’s escalating direct involvement in international and domestic conflicts may actually indirectly improve the treatment of civilian women and children generally.

As the status, leadership and dignity of women becomes better recognised and more respected within military circles, albeit through their own war service, it is more likely, in my view, that horrific abuses of women by soldiers will no longer be tolerated as some kind of bizarre and grotesque military de rigueur.

The inevitability of armed conflict may then at least become more dignified, particularly for civilian women and children – I hope.

Kevin Drummond
Adelaide, Australia
Former ICRC delegate


Needed: water declaration

Sophie Poklewski-Koziell and Johanne Dorais-Slakmon’s article “No life without water” (Issue 3-1994) develops the theme most admirably. Water has, indeed, been used as an instrument of war throughout history.

The ICRC has, through its water and sanitation engineers and hydrotechnicians, rendered yeoman service. The international community, for its part, has been sorely remiss on this count. It has largely ignored the problem which threatens to assume far graver proportions. As Ameur Zemmali of the ICRC’s Legal Division points out, the law is not silent. There are “extensive provisions” in domestic and international law on the protection of water resources in times of armed conflict.

But the law does need reaffirmation and in a manner that compels attention and emphasises the need for its compliance. The best course, I submit, is for the ICRC to work for a resolution by the UN General Assembly embodying not a Convention but a “Declaration on Water”.

One hopes the ICRC will issue a statement on the subject containing appropriate formulations followed by one from the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. The National Societies must, next, follow it up. All in preparation for taking up the matter in the General Assembly, eventually.

A.G. Noorani
Bombay, India

The medium is the message

I recently received a copy of Issue 2-1994 and read with great interest the article “Old Words of wisdom for modern warfare” by Louise Hidalgo. It was very inspiring for me and my colleagues to read of the ICRC’s efforts to harness a society’s culture to bring human rights messages to people.

I am a designer, trained in visual communication and work with Setu, a non-governmental organisation which supports marginalised, oppressed and socially backward groups in their struggle for justice and a better life. The reason Louise Hidalgo’s article is of direct relevance is because we have recently published the Gujarati and Marathi versions of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (1948) in which I have used folk and tribal paintings to illustrate the different articles of the Declaration. The idea was to show how traditional societies embodied the same humanitarian spirit as the Declaration and how this spirit is reflected in their visual expression.

Ahmedabad, India


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