Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Humanitarian Aid Concepts Introduced through a New Class - “Raid Cross"

Minefield and tight maneuvers

It wasn’t a normal ice-breaker in the Red Cross 444 Sherman Street auditorium as student humanitarian aid workers guided a blind-folded colleague through a mine field. It took minutes to move several feet. At the end of the obstacle course, a border guard demanded a visa form in an unidentified language and nonspecific fees. 

What would it be like to have a humanitarian aid mission to deliver medical supplies for a severe epidemic outbreak in a refugee camp? Would you know your specific rights as an aid worker? What might delay your progress while navigating through unspent artillery and addressing unidentified border patrols?

Humanitarian rights, prisoners of war camps, artillery and unnecessary suffering, injured on the battlefield, international criminal court and other scenarios were presented to 12 people on the April 23rd to pilot a new educational training know as “Raid Cross.” The course title play-on-words indicates the objectives for international conflict education. The French and Belgian Croix Rouge began the program in 2005 to explain modern warfare and the need for international humanitarian law.  
Raid Cross class identifying the four principles of artillery
described in the first protocol of IHL. 
The movement of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) can now be simulated for youth and adults learning about international humanitarian law (IHL) in Colorado. Training and simulation games for "Raid Cross" will be offered up to six times through the Red Cross Mile High Chapter in Denver starting in July 2014. The first "pilot" training gave valuable discussion tools to humanitarian workers, family assistance organizations employees, and leaders with international clubs for youth.

Blind folded humanitarian
with “interpreters” guiding to safety.
Representatives from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Lutheran Family Services, Jewish Family Service and the Red Cross Restoring Family Links volunteers participated. The aim for the pilot simulation was to streamline the class for future Red Cross volunteer trainings with larger audiences. 

The simulations incorporated innovative games. “Raid Cross” turned battlefields, military targets, prison camps, land mines and border crossings into simple group activities emphasizing teamwork. Each exercise educated participants on the challenges of neutral peacekeeping humanitarian aid work. 

Alexa MaGee describing the artillery
principle of distinction.
After explaining the purpose of the wounded on the battlefield role-play to the class, the Raid Cross co-instructor Alexa MaGee emphasized the importance of neutrality to the ICRC humanitarian work. All wounded on the battlefield must be recovered, no matter their origin or affiliation in armed conflict. Alexa says “Neutrality is the foundation of the four Geneva conventions and the three accompanying Protocols. From this foundation, other international treatise and compromises have emerged. Future work needs to address health care during armed conflict, acts of terrorism and upholding the international criminal court. However, the fundamental requirement for neutrality will be the bedrock for every international humanitarian law initiative.”

Through “Raid Cross” training, the Red Cross aims to create new opportunities for volunteerism, public awareness and public engagement in international humanitarian law.  “Raid Cross” simulations provide an understanding of:
  • IHL concepts and history;
  • Prisoners of War;
  • Rules of engagement for artillery, child soldiers and land mines;
  • Refugees;
  • The neutrality and impartiality of the ICRC;
  • Soft diplomacy and recommendations from the ICRC.
Why is this training relevant? We have only to look at historical and current conflicts to see how important it is for everyday people to understand these concepts as they apply in situations such as:
  • Wounded WWII soldiers on the beaches of Normandy or the Asia and Pacific theater; 
  • Syria; 
  • Cambodia;
  • Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi;
  • Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea;
  • Iraq;
  • Afghanistan;
  • Guantanamo Bay;
  • Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo events.
The training is very accessible and graspable for the lay-person and useful for the active humanitarian aid worker.  If your group or organization is interested in developing stronger awareness and a foundation of IHL through Raid Cross resources, please contact Tim Bothe, Red Cross Colorado and Wyoming International Services Manager, at
Point and counterpoint discussed for the rules of armed
conflict and humanitarian aid defined by
international humanitarian law. 

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