Rules of war

Activities introducing young people to the principles of international humanitarian law.

Black and white photo of Red Cross medics during the Blitz
Lesson plan, video
Citizenship, PSHE

This educational resource introduces young people to the principles of international humanitarian law (IHL) or the 'rules of war'. They will be able to explore what the laws are, why we have them and their importance in governing what is and is not allowed in armed conflict.

This resource is suitable for secondary school aged students, between 14-16 years old.

Learning objectives

Learners will: 

  • Learn the rules of war and the fundamental principles of the Red Cross.
  • Apply their knowledge to decide what is legal during armed conflict.
  • Share their thoughts on the importance of IHL. 


Resource overview

1. Starter activity: Who needs rules?

Introduce learners to the rules we are expected to follow in our lives and what they are for. Explore why rules are important during situations of armed conflict.

2. Learn activity: Who needs rules?

Use a short video animation as the stimulus for a series of active learning and reflective activities relating to the rules of war.

3. Apply activity: Making choices: Acceptable or unacceptable? 

Explore what is acceptable and unacceptable during situations of armed conflict with a dilemma-based scenario exercise.

4. Share activity: Who needs to know about the rules of war? 

Learners will discuss how they can share the rules of war more widely within their school environment.

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

The photo shows people fleeing the fighting near Monrovia walking towards the centre of the capital, June 2003 (© ICRC/De La Guardia, Virginia).