IFL youth team – is climbing to great strides, keeping quiet about it

(Note: In July 2019, the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region joined 43 other regions worldwide to launch the International Humanitarian Law Youth Action Campaign (IHLYAC).  This year, more regions will engage youth and young adults to conduct the Campaign with its theme: Education In War.” Here is the story of the Los Angeles Region’s first batch of IHLYAC Advocates.) 

Usually, their day encompasses after-school activities, music lessons, civic action, sports. 

So, it was encouraging to see a registration RSVP climb from 2 to a pleasantly surprising 16 sign up for an introductory meeting about the American Red Cross “International Humanitarian Law Youth Action Campaign” (IHLYAC). 

The Red Cross Los Angeles Region, which serves 10 million people in 88 cities, has one of the most robust youth volunteer programs in the nation.  Members organize and participate in Red Cross blood drives, community outreach, fundraisers, smoke alarm installations and assist in disaster response and recovery. 

Learning about a new project 

The Campaign empowers youth and young adults ages 13-24 to learn about IHL— a universal set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict.  At the heart of IHL are Four Principles that guide the decisions made by parties to armed conflict–military necessity, distinction, proportionality and prevention of unnecessary suffering. 

The Road to Training Day 

Volunteers and employees from the International Services and Youth Services departments collaborated to recruit officers of the International Services/Service to the Armed Forces (IS/SAF) unit of their respective Red Cross Youth Corps to become Advocates.   

Dovetailing on the Region’s pre-planned summer Youth Services program activities, the IHL Coordinator met with IS/SAF Officers at the Executive Board August Retreat. The E-Board is the highest local volunteer leadership opportunity for Red Cross youth in the Region.  At the Retreat, they were invited to attend an introductory meeting in September about IHL for students and parents. After that initial meeting, full-day training for IHL Advocates occurred a week later with 22 attendees to learn more about IHLYAC and its special topic ”The Ethics of Autonomous Weapons.” 

The new IHL Advocates 

The Los Angeles teams are part of a worldwide cadre of IHL Advocates drawing peers to discourse at a grassroots level about the rules of war through in-person and social media activities. “We are excited to see the results of these campaigns,” said Esme Aston, IHL Program Officer at the American Red Cross. “Emerging technologies are changing the nature of armed conflicts, and now, more than ever, it is important to educate the public that even war has rules.”  

 
 What will IHL Advocates gain from the Campaign? 

Advocates will gain a deeper understanding of the different aspects of International Humanitarian Law. Through practice, they will increase their leadership, communications and project management skills that will carry them through personal and professional life. Finally, Advocates can promote a culture that lives the Seven Fundamental Principles of the Global Red Cross network. 

The first batch of Advocates who raised awareness about the Ethics of Autonomous Weapons reached 6,607 people in-person, and more than 230,000 views and engagements online. They had virtual panels, movie nights and discussions, in-person simulations, classroom presentations and guest speakers. 

To join a Red Cross Club in Los Angeles or in your area, visit http://redcrossyouth.org/  

For more information about IHL Youth Action Campaign, visit  https://www.redcross.org/humanityinwar/international-humanitarian-law-youth-action-campaign.html

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