This school year, youth from the Western & Central New York Region of the American Red Cross competed in the 3rd annual American Red Cross International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Action Campaign. The IHL Action Campaign provides students with an opportunity to teach their peers about the importance of International Humanitarian Law, which strives to limit the effects of armed conflict and protect civilians and others who are not participating in the fighting.
Forty-one teams from high schools and colleges across the country participated in this year's program and seven of those teams are located in the Western & Central New York Region. Teams of students learned about IHL, including the campaign’s focus sub-topics of refugees and gender in war. Then, they created these campaigns, or interactive presentations, to educate their communities.
Teams from the following schools and organizations participated:
Throughout last October and November, Team Leaders and Chapter Liaisons (student interns) were educated about serious IHL issues such as treatment of prisoners of war, the use of landmines, using artillery on the battlefield, and how war crimes are punished in International Criminal Court. Throughout the remainder of the year, those students taught Team Members, reinforcing the peer-to-peer program structure.
From January through March, teams created their campaigns and presented each to at least 250 people. Campaigns ranged from videos and skits to simulations and giant board games. Across the country, students reached more than 54,000 people - 18,000 in-person and an additional 36,000 online. In the Western & Central New York Region, more than 1,800 people were educated through presentations and social media. That was an increase of more than 400 people over last year’s total, showing the rate at which this youth program is growing.
The IHL Action Campaign students are also competing for an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., in early June to attend the IHL Youth Leadership Summit. The trip will allow teams to share their campaigns with American Red Cross National Headquarters staff and each other, while gaining insight into the upcoming campaign sub-topics.
Only five lucky teams will win that trip (the winners will be announced in early May), but all of the participating teams will know they had a positive impact on their communities. All of the students are celebrating a completed year of tremendously hard work while simultaneously planning their action campaigns for next year.