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April 25, 2015
The monthly journal for independent thought, ethical standards and moral responsibility The international journal for independent thought, ethical standards, moral responsibility,
and for the promotion and respect of public international law, human rights and humanitarian law
Current Concerns  >  2006  >  No 7, 2006  >  Strengthen the Teaching of International Humanitarian Law in European Schools [printversion]

Strengthen the Teaching of International Humanitarian Law in European Schools

According to the ICRC News 06/24 senior officials from the education ministries of 22 European countries met in Vienna in May 2006 with Red Cross/Red Crescent education specialists to discuss practical ways of introducing international humanitarian law into the curricula of secondary schools.

The ICRC and the Austrian Red Cross under the auspices of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union held the European Education Leadership Conference on Exploring Humanitarian Law, which lasted for two days. In his opening speech, ICRC vice-president Jacques Forster stated: “We have a choice today. We can either sit back, watch the devastation wrought by war and try to make our children look the other way; or we can choose to tell our children that what they see – or what they are themselves experiencing – is not acceptable, that this is not how it is supposed to be, and that they can behave differently, in ways inspired by deep-rooted respect for human dignity, both in peacetime and in the midst of armed conflict.”

In 2005, following similar initiatives over the past years, the Council of the European Union adopted guidelines on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law. Mr Forster said that the Vienna conference was a milestone for measuring the seriousness of the EU’s and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s commitment to promoting the law among young people.

The ICRC’s Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) programme is aimed at acquainting young people with the notion of human dignity as an inviolable principle that must be respected both in peacetime and in wartime. “We must start promoting humanitarian law among the younger generation and not wait until they join the army or have to make informed decisions as politicians, humanitarian workers or ordinary citizens,” said Mr Forster.

The EHL programme comprises 30 hours of interactive classroom activities that teachers or Red Cross / Red Crescent youth educators can adapt to their needs. It is currently being implemented, at various stages of advancement, in over 90 countries around the world. Teaching materials exist in Arabic, English, French, Spanish and 25 other languages.

(For further information, please contact Vincent Lusser, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 24 26 or 
+41 79 217 32 64)