We visited the ICRC (Red Cross/Red Crescent) and met with a rep in the hottest room imaginable. I didn’t faint, but it was dicey for a while. Despite the heat, it was one of my favorite lectures. It’s amazing to hear people who are good at this (this being diplomacy, public speaking and representing something other than themselves) field questions. His job is a mix between relief work and politics, and I was eating it up.
Unfortuntely, some in our number lack the legal background to really learn from the talk. They spent their time asking uninformed questions and then rudely carried out silly debates during the rest of the q&a. No, you don’t need to fight about what defines “advanced warning” or “civilians” in international humanitarian law (IHL), because teams of lawyers already have. When these questions flared up I was really grateful for Kim Jones’ class (Human Rights in the Middle East), and the background I’ve gained from UNA.
Some in our number were freaked out by the morals of the ICRC. The man was pretty realist (especially about the organization) but not as hardcore as the Arab League ASG. Some people get upset because the ICRC doesn’t publicly oppose war, or always cause a ruckus over various violations it finds. However, the ICRC has to face certain realities. The man we spoke to emphasized that Amnesty International (AI) and the ICRC are both very different, but both very necessary. AI does field research, releases reports and draws publicity in order to put pressure on various states. ICRC on the other hand does relief work in the field, and don’t go back to their offices for quite some time. If the ICRC publicly denounces a state r a practice, they jeopardize their ability to help people on the ground. In the end, there’s only so much merit to being right if you can’t help anyone, as demonstrated by the fact that the ICRC is the only organization still allowed in Sudan. Being loud and right has its merits, but it doesn’t mean a damn if there’s no one to immediately help in the field.
Meanwhile, some disagree with the idea of relief work as opposed to development aid, the idea being that with proper (western?) development, there would no longer be a need for relief work. The ICRC steps in during natural disasters though, and no amount of infrastructure can stop those, and even “civilized” states can have civil war or be invaded. Even if the premise that good development aid=no relief work later was true, one would still need the ICRC in the meantime.
After the lecture we had an intense discussion in the van. Finally, the powder keg of 25 politically minded smartasses went off. I hnestly can’t believe it took this long! It was an enjoyable day though, and I actually didn’t argue for a while and just watched others do it–I may have even learned a few tricks.