IS training underscores importance of International Humanitarian Law

together-for-humanity_420x279In early June, volunteers and staff of the American Red Cross International Services Division gathered in Orlando, Florida for a two-day training in International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The sessions provided much more than that!

The group was comprised of volunteers with a diversity of backgrounds: from lawyers, to International Red Cross delegates, to retired IHL military lawyers, to JAG officers who had been active in war zones. Taking place on June 1–2, the training focused on the “Rules of Engagement in Armed Conflict,” protection of the most vulnerable in times of war, and forced migration. Additionally, the group discussed best practices for outreach on these subjects.

The training was thoroughly inspiring. The IHL trainers — Randy Bagwell, Noah O’Connor, and Molly Kovite — were outstanding in their knowledge of the material and facilitated lively and inclusive discussions. All three were enthusiastic and supportive of the attendees throughout the training.

The first day included a discussion of why the American Red Cross teaches IHL and an introduction to the Humanity in War materials. The second day included a discussion of best practices in teaching that course and a presentation by DeAndrea Fuller, an expert-level instructor from the North Florida Region. She discussed her presentation of the Humanity in War course at the University of North Florida. In addition to learning from everyone’s wealth of knowledge and experience, we were able to gather new tools for teaching IHL and provide input into developing a relevant outreach program.

The momentum from the training catalyzed a number of ideas. Currently in our Northern California Coastal Region, we have planned a number of ways to bring IHL to volunteers, paid staff, and the public at large. Two International Services boot camps — day-long trainings — have already been conducted with several others scheduled for the remainder of 2019-20. The boot camps cover IHL, Restoring Family Links (RFL), and introduce information about Measles Advocacy, Mapping, and an overview of the Youth Action Campaign (YAC).

To acknowledge the diversity of our community, our boot camp students are encouraged to bring a dish that represents their family heritage to share with classmates during a potluck lunch. Additionally, our regional volunteers will be teaching the Born on the Battlefield course at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the fall. Also, volunteers are now members of the local Human Trafficking Coalition, and we continue to represent Red Cross and the international work we do in local Migrant Forums.

Next spring, a symposium on “Forced Migration, Solutions and Challenges” is envisioned in which the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), International Rescue Committee, ARC representatives, and subject experts will be invited to three-day, three-venue program to be presented in local universities to students and the general public. IS is also interested in reaching out to local law schools to engage them in IHL for Lawyers. As part of our outreach efforts, we are also planning short talks for service clubs.

This fall in the Central Coast we are also creating a monthly discussion group that focuses on current international events and the response of the IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross) and the ICRC.

I’m very grateful that I was recommended by our region to take the training and become certified as an expert-level instructor in IHL. Even more importantly, the training exposed me to the endless possibilities that can occur when minds come together to discuss the significance of including humanity as a necessary element in any formula of war and forced migration.

Email Go Funai or Jill Hofmann to participate in our International Services program.