Evan Edler is a 16-year-old Red Cross volunteer from Massachusetts, who spent this past year participating in his school’s International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Youth Action Campaign. IHL is a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict. These rules attempt to reconcile the reality of armed conflicts with the protection of lives and preservation of human dignity. The Red Cross’s Youth Action Campaign gives students the opportunity to learn more about this important body of law. We asked Evan a few questions about what he learned from the campaign and why he thinks others should get involved.
What is the Youth Action Campaign?
The IHL Youth Action Campaign is a way for youth volunteers and activists to educate their communities about international humanitarian law, and how it affects people around the world.
How long have you been involved with the Youth Action Campaign?
Last year was my first (and my school’s first) year participating in the Youth Action Campaign.
Why is it important for people to know about international humanitarian law?
Though some people are far removed from warfare or military involvement, to many, IHL is a life-or-death matter. For people living in active war zones or with family members in danger, IHL can be an extremely important protection – which is why the rest of the world should be aware when such essential rules are violated.
What do you do as a member of the Youth Action Campaign?
As a member of the Youth Action Campaign, I work to teach my peers about IHL and its importance. I plan creative events, advertise throughout the school and encourage other students and my community to get involved with the Red Cross. I generally promote excitement about IHL to increase awareness in fun and different ways.
What’s the most surprising thing you learned about international humanitarian law?
The most surprising thing I learned was that people violate IHL so frequently. It was shocking to hear stories and see examples of combatants in war targeting medical facilities, considering the neutrality protections that the symbol of the Red Cross should grant in such places.
Why do you think others should get involved with the campaign?
The campaign is not only a good way to learn more about international humanitarian law, but it also spreads awareness around the work of the Red Cross and humanitarianism in general. The Youth Action Campaign is a doorway into the Red Cross as an international effort and it provides a valuable perspective on both history and modern-day events. And most importantly, the campaign allows you to connect to your peers in new ways over very important issues.
What do you like most about being involved with the campaign?
I loved the idea that so many other people were running the same campaign. The fact that youth across the country and beyond were participating together to achieve the same goal was especially powerful, and it made the campaign much more interesting than an average school event. In addition, it got me more involved with the Red Cross as a whole. Thanks to the campaign, I had the invaluable opportunity to come all the way for a visit to the Red Cross national headquarters in D.C.
To learn more about the International Humanitarian Law Youth Action campaign, visit redcross.org.