After the first week of academic training at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) 2015 travelled for a week of research training and discussion with ICRC members to the Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.
The First Day at Geneva started with an introduction to the public archives and library resources by ICRC staff. Jean-Luc Blondel, former Delegate, Head of Division, and currently Adviser to the Department of Communication and Information Management welcomed the group. Daniel Palmieri, the Historical Research Officer at the ICRC, and
Fabrizio Bensi, Archivist, explained the development of the holdings, particularly of the recently opened records from 1966-1975. The Librarian Veronique Ziegenhagen introduced the library with its encompassing publications on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, Humanitarian Action, international conflicts and crises. The ICRC also possesses a superb collection of photographs and films which Fania Khan Mohammad, Photo archivist, and Marina Meier, Film archivist explained.
In the afternoon, the GHRA group had the chance to discuss with Jacques Moreillon, Director General of the ICRC between 1984 and 1988. He gave a presentation on his long experience with special insights into Red Cross prison visits with political detainees. Dr Moreillon was one of the ICRC delegates to visit Nelson Mandela on Robben Island and shared his vivid memories with the participants.
Jacques Moreillon, Honorary Member of the ICRC, at the GHRA 2015
On the Second Day the participants of the GHRA worked intensively at the archives and library. The staff members assisted them fully in tracing holdings relevant for their individual PhD research. The students discovered the rich material in documents and audio-visual record; some found huge amounts of new material and will certainly return again. Archival work continued on the Third Day which in the afternoon was spent in discussion with Charlotte Lindsey-Curtet, Director of Communication and Information Management, who in 2001 had produced the topical report Women Facing War on the impact of armed conflict on women. She presented the challenges the ICRC is facing in regard to its relations not only with the wider public and the press but also with the parties to conflicts. In the debate with the GHRA participants, it became clear that the long-term relations which the ICRC establishes in regions of crises makes historical knowledge and research highly relevant to humanitarian action today.
The Fourth Day started again with work on individual projects in the archives and continued with a workshop at the University of Geneva. Irène Herrmann, Professor of Transnational Swiss History, delivered a stimulating paper on the ‘Concepts of Humanitarianism and their Consequences for Academic Research’. The theoretical reflection linked the empirical leg of the GHRA week in Geneva perfectly with the discussion of recent research and fundamental concepts of global humanitarianism during the first week in Mainz. The Fifth Day was dedicated to a concluding discussion of the achievement of the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy 2015 and to further archival reading.
After two intensive and enjoyable weeks in Mainz and Geneva, the GHRA participants sadly had to say good-bye but they will surely stay connected with each other and with the Research Academy. Their next joint project is already in preparation: an Online Atlas of the History of Humanitarianism & Human Rights to be published in the autumn! Based on an interactive world map with ca. 50 locations in Africa, America, Asia, Australia, and Europe, the Online Atlas will provide readers with concise analytical information on key concepts, events, and people which shaped the development of modern humanitarianism and human rights.
The next GHRA 2016 will take place, during its first week, at the Centre for Imperial and Global History at the University of Exeter and again at the ICRC in Geneva in the second week. A call for application will be published in late September this year on http://hhr.hypotheses.org/ and http://imperialglobalexeter.com/
Fabian Klose Johannes Paulmann Andrew Thompson