On Wednesday, 20th July, the fellows of the GHRA 2016 discussed topical issues as well as the role and impact of history with Charlotte Lindsey Curtet at the Humanitarium, the conference centre at the headquarters of the ICRC in Geneva. As Director of Communication and Information Management since 2010, Charlotte Lindsey is not only current in all present affairs but also responsible for the Archives of the ICRC.
She herself has witnessed great changes since she joined the organisation in 1993 when she first went on missions to Bosnia and Ruanda. In 1999-2000 she conducted a major research on women and war resulting in the publication of Women Facing War (2001). The findings in some instances surprised her herself, she said. Looking at women not merely through the prism of sexual violence and as victims but as actors in their own right broadened the perspectives and made the ICRC more gender sensitive in terms of operational response as well as legal development. The “all victims approach” prevalent until then has since been abandoned in favour of a more nuanced notion without giving up the principle of impartiality. In more recent years, similar discussions are taking place in relation to the challenges of cultural and particularly religious differences. The aim always is to find communality in order to come to the aid of those who suffer across the divides of a conflict. Increasing Respect for International Humanitarian Law in non-International Armed Conflicts (2008) suggests in a chapter on “strategic argumentation” to appeal to core values as “the fundamental principles of humanitarian law are often mirrored in the values, ethics or morality of local cultures and traditions. Pointing out how certain rules or principles found in IHL also exist within the culture of a party to a conflict can help lead to increased compliance“ (p. 31).