A NOTE FOR KIDS FOR GLOBAL PEACE: Here is some information about WAR AND PEACEFUL CONFLICT RESOLUTION that I put together for the American Red Cross in June of 2005. It is everything you will need to know to write a school report or prepare a school verbal presentation about War or Peaceful Conflict Resolution.

Good luck with your assignment!
Joy Berry

The Information below is about:

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Humans are social beings who usually live in groups like



            communities, or

People who are part of a group often share common





            and leadership.

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Based on its shared background, customs, interests, beliefs, and leadership, a group often establishes standards by which its members are to live.

People often conform to standards established by their groups.

Because these standards serve them, the people in a group often begin to believe that they are the correct standards by which every person should live.


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When members of a group think that others should be living by their standards, they often strive to get others to take on their group's standards.

When one group tries to impose its standards on another group, it often causes conflict between the two groups.

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Conflicts between groups can be caused by other factors.

When one group needs or wants additional space, it might endeavor to take away space that is occupied by another group.

This can cause conflicts between groups.

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When one group needs or wants to have additional resources, it might endeavor to take away resources that are possessed by another group.

This can cause conflicts between groups.

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When leaders wish to lead more people than are in their group, they might endeavor to take over the leadership of another group.

This can cause conflicts between groups.

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Conflicts can occur between members of the same group.

Conflicts can also occur between two different groups.

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Conflicts can occur between two large groups that are made up of several smaller groups.

The smaller groups that make up a larger group are called allies.

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When a conflict happens, the groups that are involved become opposing forces. This means that they are on opposite sides of the conflict.

The groups on opposite sides of a conflict are also called adversaries or enemies.

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Groups that are not involved in the conflict, and do not want to be on either side, are called neutral parties.

The areas in which neutral parties exist are called neutral territories.


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There are many ways to resolve conflicts between groups.

Sometimes the leaders on both sides of a conflict figure out a resolution, which is a way to resolve a conflict.

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When leaders cannot figure out a resolution, they often ask neutral parties to mediate, and help figure out a resolution.

In these situations, neutral parties are called intermediaries.


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A resolution that does not involve fighting is a peaceful resolution.

One kind of peaceful resolution is based on the principle "live and let live." Groups that embrace this principle agree to respect each other and live side-by-side without bothering or harming each other.

Sometimes these groups interact and help each other. But sometimes they don't.

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Another kind of peaceful resolution happens when the leaders of both sides discuss the conflict and agree on a fair way to settle it. The agreement they make is called a treaty.

Negotiating a treaty often requires compromise in which each group gives up something, and each group gets something.


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Sometimes leaders choose a resolution based on the principle "survival of the fittest." This resolution allows the physically strongest, most powerful group to dominate another group.

This resolution requires that the groups fight with each other until one side gives up or loses.

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In these situations, the fight between groups is called war.

A war is called an armed conflict if it involves arms. Arms are weapons that are designed to inflict injury or death on an opponent.

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Sometimes groups become fearful that others might attack them.

To avoid this possibility they attack before they are attacked. This is called a preemptive strike.


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The people who use arms during a war are called armed forces.

Armed forces are also called the military.

When a group is at war, all of its members are involved in one of the following ways:

Leaders make the decisions regarding war. They plan how the war will be fought. Then they instruct the combatants to carry out their plans.

Combatants fight the war.

Military personnel provide the supplies and support combatants need to fight the war.

Civilians do not fight or assist with the war. However, they are often harmed as a result of the war.

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Sometimes combatants and military personnel are draftees. Draftees are forced to participate in a war because they are a member of the group and are qualified to participate.

Sometimes combatants and military personnel are volunteers. Volunteers offer to participate in a war because they support their group's position and want to help win the conflict.

Sometimes combatants are mercenaries. Mercenaries voluntarily fight in a war in exchange for payment for their services.


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Every group that engages in war incurs losses.

Even groups who win wars lose a lot of lives and resources in the process.

Some of the losses include military targets. These are combatants and objects that are used in war efforts.

Some of the losses include civilian objects. These are people and things that are not military targets. Loss and damage to civilian objects is called collateral damage.

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All losses sustained as results of war are called casualties of war.

People who are injured, captured, imprisoned, or killed during war are called human casualties.

The word "fatalities," refers to people who have died.

One particular incident involving many human casualties, including fatalities, led to profound changes in the way humans are treated during war.


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In 1859, Henry Dunant, a Swiss businessman traveling through Solferino, Italy, witnessed the horrible aftermath of a battle between the French and Austrian armed forces.

As the surviving combatants departed the battlefield, Mr. Dunant saw them leave behind thousands of wounded and dying men.

Mr. Dunant recruited nearby residents to provide care for the injured men. Yet in spite of their efforts, thousands died.

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Mr. Dunant was so profoundly affected by the tragedy that he wrote a book about it called, A Memory of Solferino.

In the book, Mr. Dunant recommended that relief societies made up of civilian volunteers be put together to care for human casualties.

Mr. Dunant suggested that there needed to be humanitarian rules that addressed the matters of human life and human dignity that are often overlooked in the midst of war.

He also suggested that the rules needed to be international rules that apply to every country in the world.

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In 1863 five people met together in Geneva, Switzerland to consider Dunant's recommendations.

As a result of that meeting, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was formed.

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The ICRC is an organization that serves as a neutral intermediary in times of armed conflict. Its mission is to protect victims of war.

In most countries the ICRC is known as the Red Cross, and its symbol is a red cross.

In Muslim countries the ICRC is known as the Red Crescent, and its symbol is a red crescent.

In Israel, there is an organization similar to the ICRC called the Red Shield of David. Its symbol is a red Star of David.


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In 1864, people from all over the world met in Geneva (which was neutral territory) to determine what the rules regarding human casualties should be. This meeting was the first Geneva Convention.

Later, three additional conventions took place in Geneva. The second convention took place in 1906. The third convention took place in 1929. And the fourth convention took place in 1949.

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The four conventions produced the 159 articles of the Geneva Conventions, which is an agreement that sets forth the International Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflict (Humanitarian Law).

Some military groups call the International Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflict the Law of War.

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In 1977, two additional agreements called Protocols were added to the Geneva Conventions.

These Additional Protocols of 1977 expanded the protections provided by the Geneva Conventions.

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Some of the issues that the Protocols addressed include rules that

            protect cultural objects as well as places of worship,

            forbid using children as combatants, and

            require groups that violate Humanitarian Law to compensate the people affected by their violations.


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The purpose of Humanitarian Law is to protect human dignity as well as the quality of human life during wartime.

Humanitarian Law is built upon the premise that every human being

            is entitled to life,

            is worthy of respect, and

            deserves to be treated with dignity.

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The Geneva Conventions consists of hundreds of pages that clearly define and explain seven basic rules of International Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflict.

What follows is a simplified version of the seven rules.

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Combatants and military personnel who are "out of the fight" because they are injured or incapacitated by war are called hors de combat.

It is against the law to do anything to hors de combat, civilians, or neutral parties that would be disrespectful of their lives, morals, or physical wellbeing.

Hors de combat, civilians and neutral parties, no matter who they are, should be protected and treated humanely.

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It is against the law to kill or injure hors de combat, or people who surrender (give up).

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Captors are people who capture others by defeating and taking control of them.

Captors must take care of the wounded and sick people that they capture.

Captors must also protect the medical personnel, transportation, and equipment that are providing care to the wounded and sick.

This includes personnel, transportation, and equipment that bear the emblem of a Red Cross, Red Crescent, or Red Star of David.

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People who are captured are called captives.

A captive who is a combatant is called a prisoner of war (POW).

A captive who is a civilian is called a civilian internee.

Captives are entitled to respect for their lives, dignity, personal rights, and convictions.

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Captives are to be protected against all acts of violence and reprisals.

Captives have the right to correspond with their families.

And, captives are entitled to receive the help they need to survive and be healthy.

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Everyone involved in war is entitled to fundamental judicial guarantees.

No one is to be held responsible for an act that he or she did not commit.

No one is to be subjected to physical or mental torture, corporal punishment, or cruel or degrading treatment.

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Groups that engage in war do not have unlimited choices regarding how they will fight and what arms they will use.

It is against the law to use war strategies, practices, or arms that will cause unnecessary losses or excessive suffering.

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Groups that engage in war are to take care to distinguish between civilians and combatants so that civilians, as well as their properties, are not harmed.

Attacks are never to be directed toward individual civilians or groups of civilians.

Attacks are to be limited to military targets.


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Groups that engage in war are required to obey Humanitarian Law.

When groups ignore Humanitarian Law they are in non-compliance with the law.

Groups that are in non-compliance with the law are subject to sanctions.

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Economic sanctions restrict trading, which is the buying and selling of goods and services that goes on between groups.

This can be difficult when survival is dependent on trading with other groups.

Political sanctions exclude the offending group from the entire community.

When a group is excluded from the entire community, it becomes vulnerable because it is not entitled to the protection, rights, and privileges provided by the community.

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A group is in breach when it disobeys Humanitarian Law.

Torture, inhumane treatment, and causing unnecessary suffering or death, are examples of grave breaches.

Grave breaches are also called war crimes.

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People who participate in war crimes can be imprisoned or executed for their crimes.

Because individuals can be punished for committing war crimes, they cannot be forced by their superiors to break Humanitarian Laws.

Instead they can refuse to do anything that is against Humanitarian Law.

Leaders who force combatants, military personnel, or civilians to break Humanitarian Law can be imprisoned or executed for the outcomes of their orders.

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To insure that they do not commit war crimes, all leaders, combatants, and military personnel associated with war need to know and understand Humanitarian Law.

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Civilians need to know and understand Humanitarian Law as well.

Doing so will help them know when they are being treated unjustly.

It will also empower them to get whatever help they need in order to survive wars to which they are subjected.

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You are a human being, and because you are, in every situation you are entitled to the protection of your life and dignity that Humanitarian Law provides.