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Students negotiate the rules of war

25 February 2010

Students at Justice and fairness event© InfoOn 23 February, 92 secondary students from across the UK left school and their everyday personalities behind for the day to take a trip to the war-torn fictional world of Paxium.

The 15- and 16-year-olds role-played as members of General Granesta’s rebel side and President Solon’s government to negotiate the rules of a civil war. They explored current issues including treatment of prisoners and civilians, landmines, and child soldiers.

The role-play activity and the event were organised by the British Red Cross and law firm Allen & Overy as part of a day-long Justice and Fairness symposium. It was adapted from a template used by the Canadian Red Cross.

A successful day

Giles Wallis, head of personal, social, health and economic education at Walford Grammar for Boys, said: “It’s a great activity and the students responded really well. It touches on so many things – international humanitarian law (IHL), resolution of conflict, justice and fairness – and there are underlying themes of personal development too like team building and conflict of interest."

The students gathered at the law firm’s offices in London and were split into groups of about 20. Each group started working as one united Paxium – and were then divided in two when a civil war was announced by ‘live’ broadcast.

Difficult decisions

Each participant was given a specific role – including medical officer, weapons manufacturer, and president of the women’s alliance – and together each side had to negotiate the rules of war.

Students at Justice and Fairness event© InfoThroughout the negotiations, bulletins and communiqués ‘arrived’ from the field, which further shaped and complicated the situation. The activity concluded with a discussion about how the situations that played out in Paxium relate to the real world and IHL.

Gillian Ross, a student at Bannerman High School, Glasgow, said: “It was a great learning experience. I think this kind of thing should be taught more often. It’s real life. It makes people think and shows that things aren’t simple.”

International partnership

The symposium was one element of the long-term partnership between Allen & Overy and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Earlier this year, the partnership launched a new education resource to be used by teachers delivering the IHL aspects of the citizenship curriculum.

The resource, developed by a team of lawyers from Allen & Overy, and education specialists from the British Red Cross, includes a series of interactive lesson plans designed to stimulate debate on IHL and wider topics around justice and fairness.

The inclusion of IHL in the revised citizenship curriculum is the result of three years of advocacy work by the British Red Cross.

Download the education resource and find out more about all aspects of the Justice and Fairness partnership between the Red Cross and Allen & Overy.