New York is truly an internationally-minded city and the American Red Cross in Greater New York is taking advantage of that. Via its International Humanitarian Law (IHL) panels and workshops in NYC, the organization is providing greater context to understanding some of the humanitarian crisis currently unfolding around the world.
This past week, the Greater NY Red Cross hosted two IHL events at their Hell’s Kitchen headquarters, one for professionals (including lawyers) working in international fields and another for City high school and college students.
“The Red Cross was founded on the ideals held within these laws, that seek to limit the effects of armed conflict, more than 150 years ago,” said Greater NY Red Cross International Services specialist Marie Vandenbempt about the connection between the Red Cross and IHL. “As part of our global mission, we carry on this tradition by disseminating the principles of IHL to interested New Yorkers.”
On Thursday, the Red Cross hosted an IHL workshop for nearly 30 professionals (both legal and other). The in-depth continuing education training was led by experienced Red Cross legal instructors Merve Stolzman and Federico Barillas Schwank. One of the highlights of the event was renowned keynote speaker Ben Ferencz, last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg Trials following WWII, who added his unique perspective and insight to the conversation.
On Friday, the organization’s Youth Services team organized an IHL panel discussion for members of their high school and college clubs. The event featured a diverse mix of IHL experts who used current events in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar and beyond to bring complex issues of IHL to light.
Speakers included Elise Baker, who manages the Physicians for Human Rights’ Syrian mapping project; Adem Carroll, program manager for the NGO Justice for All/Burma Task Force; Christophe Lobry-Boulanger, advisor at the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies UN Delegation; and Gabor Rona, an IHL specialist currently teaching international law at Cardozo Law School.
Speaking on why it is relevant for everyone, no matter their background, to understand IHL, Red Cross legal instructor Federico Barillas Schwank insisted, “It’s important that they know about the laws of war because a lot of national policies are informed by what people around the country think. I think that the population can and does have an influence on what leaders do and don’t do.”
And New York City is the perfect place to spread such important information.
“What happens in New York really influences the world.” said Schwank, “Having people in New York know about IHL and spread the word would have tremendous impact in our work.”
Learn more about the Red Cross’ IHL work here, www.redcross.org/humanityinwar.