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Capturing the Hearts of American Teens with International Humanitarian Law

I think I may be turning into an IHL nerd (Does that exist? Like a band nerd?). I just got an e-book copy of the Geneva conventions.

Soren, IHL Action Campaign Participant and New Roots Charter School Student via Facebook

In a world of ever-decreasing attention spans and instant connectivity, it takes something special to capture the hearts and minds of American teenagers and young adults. But getting them captivated about international humanitarian law? For three whole days? That’s really special.

Launched in 2013 by the American Red Cross, the IHL Action Campaign gets young people (ages 14–24) to learn about international humanitarian law by creating peer education campaigns to raise awareness about the rules of war. Focusing on the topics of child soldiers and international justice, this year’s campaign saw 26 teams of high school and college students—supported by eight different Red Cross Chapters—participate in the program. The top six teams went on to Washington, D.C. for the IHL Youth Leadership Summit where students presented their projects, developed their leadership skills, and increased their knowledge about international issues related to IHL.

Here’s just a few things that the students said after a whirlwind three-day experience that included simulation activities, panel discussions, and a powerful keynote by South Sudanese refugee, Deng Abiel.

“From thought provoking questions on gender, to the wonderful Deng Abiel discussing his life as a resettled refugee in the United States, to the panel on refugee organizations, the guest speakers reminded us all why we are here. We are active in IHL for our communities, the communities far away from us, and most importantly, humanity. Humanity is a very abstract word, and yet, this is such a great medium to be able to remind us and others that in spite of our differences, we are all human, and deserve identity, dignity, and security.”

-Joshua, Bradley University, Central Illinois Regional Chapter

Watch the video about Bradley University’s campaign here.

“I learned that there are so many ways to communicate an idea to people, and affect them in such a way that they are interested in learning more and finding a way to be active for a particular cause…The goal for all of these incredible campaigns is to not only make a difference, but to get other people to care and want to do something too. It is awesome to be able to get more people in the Orange County, CA community involved and interested in topics that are important to reflect upon.“

-Daniella, Oxford Academy, Orange County Chapter

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