Modernizing the Way the Rules of War are Taught
The new “Introduction to International Humanitarian Law” course created by the International Committee of the Red Cross seeks to make the rules of war accessible to a wide practitioner and policy-maker audience, combining blended learning, inductive methodology and an interactive interface.
Humanitarian practitioners and policy-makers1 often operate in volatile, complex environments, where important, time-sensitive decisions need to be made. A sound understanding of the applicable legal framework to any humanitarian context is therefore crucial for those operating in it. It can help reduce legal risk and can contribute to better informed decision-making and coherence of operations. Furthermore, it may also provide a solid foundation for humanitarian engagement/dialogue, and can help build a common frame of reference in complex humanitarian negotiations. Finally, the dissemination of international humanitarian law (IHL) is in fact a legal obligation of States party to the Geneva Conventions vis-à-vis the armed forces but also civil servants and the civilian population at large. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in its role as ‘guardian’ of the Geneva Conventions, contributes to this effort and therefore constantly reflects on the best way to train practitioners and decision-makers to respect the law in their daily work.
While the relevance of IHL training for achieving better humanitarian outcomes is generally acknowledged, tools and methodologies vary widely across institutions. The majority of IHL training offers for practitioners focus on in-presence courses and knowledge retention.2
The ICRC’s longstanding experience with training practitioners specifically suggests that there are particular advantages of going beyond this model, and applying two additional concepts which are not new to trainers - namely blended learning and an inductive methodology. While the blended learning approach allows for mixing online/Internet-based resources with traditional classroom activities (for example, by completing the online training before a presence-based course, such as the ICRC course on IHL for humanitarian practitioners3), the inductive approach allows learners to first explore a concrete situation, in order to then draw broader conclusions about the elements of response the law brings to it.
For several years now, the ICRC has been working on updating its online training offer to be able to better feature these two approaches in its new “Introduction to IHL” online course. On the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (“GCs”), the ICRC has partnered with DisasterReady.org and other providers to make this course available, in order to showcase the accessibility and continued relevance of those foundational IHL treaties to contemporary armed conflicts.
The “Introduction to IHL” course is specifically designed to provide an interactive learning experience. At the outset, a quick quiz helps each learner build an individual learning path. Through regular “Knowledge Check” quizzes, progress in the understanding and application of the law can be measured. Finally, the “Resources” and “Glossary” sections provide additional content and references for those who’d like to delve deeper into a certain topic.
Alongside design, the contents of the course have also been fully revisited, integrating the most up-to-date content in the modules on the protection of the medical mission, the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems, and the regulation of certain weapons.
Sign up for your free DisasterReady.org account to start this course in English now. To ensure that it is widely accessible across different geographical regions, the ICRC and DisasterReady will work on making this e-learning available in French, Arabic, and Spanish in 2020.
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