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Rules of war

Introduce young people to the rules of war.

Armed conflict will always involve casualties and loss.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement works to minimise the harmful effects of conflict by raising awareness of international laws governing what is and is not allowed in armed conflict.

These laws are based on the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and other international treaties.

They form the basis of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) or the ‘rules of war’ as they are sometimes more simply known.

Pick and choose from our rules of war resources to create thought-provoking sessions in which young people can explore core humanitarian principles and how they can be applied situations of armed conflict.


Resource overview

  1. Information sheet for educators
    A useful introduction to key terminology.
  2. Starter activity: who needs rules?
    Introduce learners to the rules we have in different aspects of our lives and what rules are for. Explore why rules are important during situations of armed conflict.
  3. Rules of war in a nutshell
    Use a short video animation as the stimulus for a series of active and reflective activities relating to the rules of war.
  4. Humanitarian principles and conflict
    Learn about the principles of neutrality, impartiality and humanitarianism that underpin the origins and work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and of International Humanitarian Law.
  5. Making choices – acceptable or unacceptable?
    Explore what is acceptable and unacceptable during armed conflict with a walking debate and dilemma-based scenario exercise.

Suggested age range: 14–16-year-olds

Curriculum links: Citizenship


Learning objectives

Through these resources young people will:

  • Develop a basic understanding of why we have rules of war and what they are;
  • Explore moral and intellectual dilemmas associated with armed conflict;
  • Understand Red Cross’ Fundamental Principles, including humanity, neutrality and impartiality;
  • Explore what is acceptable and unacceptable (legal and illegal) during armed conflict; and
  • Be able to articulate their thoughts about the importance of International Humanitarian Law.


These resources were written by Rob Bowden and Rosie Wilson of Lifeworlds Learning and published in February 2015.