International Humanitarian Conference

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Update: 1.30pm on 14th February 2014

Session 5: War and conflict resolution has changed and it has become more and more complex. Although History repeats itself and we can learn from it as pointed out by Claude Begle when he described the contemporary challenges of war and the reasons for conflicts. War and conflict are now more internal conflicts and there new reasons for conflicts. Resources war is now the fourth reasons for conflicts. We see that they are different and several solutions and responses to the conflict.  What was striking was the importance of renewable energy and environmental issues in the resolution of conflicts. There is a change in the physiognomy of war; the population is a major problem in conflict and the resolution of conflict. Population can be a tool used by several different actors. It can used as a tool for interventionism that western countries use to go into war (the protection of population) to garner response from the people. It also is used by government, insurgents to regain power. The population is not only seen as the victim but something that can be used by one side or another. Populations are now more and more victims of their own governments. Another interesting point during this session was the importance of finding the real causes of war before forces especially external forces intervene. The weakness of governments whether it is a conflict of resources in Asia or conflicts in the middle east or conflicts of illicit resources in Mexico. The failure of government brings about chaos. And like Mr Kempf said there is a need for a leviathan to prevent chaos and there lie many of the causes of conflicts in the world.

Session 6: The last session of the conference deals with different ways to solve conflicts and the new kind wars that is in our future. All those different kind wars involve money, arms and images. We need to look at the package of war. There is a Business man of violence, there are markets of violence. So we need to see who is really pulling the strings, western countries must be more responsible and less arrogant. There are many ways to resolve conflicts. We must promote democracy, economic prosperity and collective security. Interdependence can help stop the war and maybe we could export this model to other parts of the world. Another interesting way to resolve conflicts is to work with non-state actors; there are many of those actors that could uphold security. Before they started using violence those groups want to be recognized and they were ignored. The use of violence by these groups is the only way they can be noticed by the international community. Negotiation with those groups is possible and can be successful. A good example is the IRA and the British government. Another possible way to resolve conflict is autonomy. The last sessions of the 19th humanitarian conference gives us the opportunity to see the future and see what kind of war we can expect and where Switzerland and maybe even Geneva can be an important stepping stone in fighting cyber-attacks and other conflicts.  We can bring about change, although it is difficult there is hope in the resolution of conflicts.

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Update: 4pm on 13th February 2014

Session 3 focused on the UN Blue Helmets and Peace Keeping Operations. The main themes which emerged were the lessons that have been learned from former peace keeping missions and how we can learn from our past failures to improve future peace keeping tasks. Every speaker identified that peace keeping operations with unclear objectives or inconsistencies in planning fail to reach their mark. When the UN hesitates to clearly define the objectives of a peace keeping operation, perhaps more harm will be done, than good. This discussion showed the changes that have been made in approaches to peace keeping operations, namely peace building. Peace building includes training and teaching armed groups about International Humanitarian Law and the Law of Armed Conflict. As numerous peace keeping missions have shown, we must also take the initiative to have a process for reforming and reintegrating combatants after the conflict. Without a long term plan, peace will not remain consistent.

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Update: 11am on 13th February 2014

The 19th International Humanitarian Conference’s keynote address reminded us why conflict resolution is such an important topic in today’s day and age. This topic is timely, with the culmination of several important anniversaries in Geneva and the relevance of the current Geneva talks discussing a solution to the conflict in Syria. The keynote speaker, Mr. Cornelio Sommaruga, made the peak comment, “Signing documents is not enough to bring peace. Peace must be instilled in hearts and minds… Forgiveness is the best form of reconciliation.”

The first session set the stage for the work that is being done to find solutions to the world’s conflicts in the city of Geneva. This session conveyed the compassionate response to the suffering of those around the world –with the signature of the 1864 Geneva Convention-, through the development of the International Geneva, a City of Peace, up to the Iran and Syria negotiations going on at the moment.

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Running since 1996, the annual International Humanitarian Conference (IHC) organized by Webster University is an important event for the international humanitarian community and for the University's Faculty & students.
 
The conference is an excellent opportunity for students to contribute to the international humanitarian community based in Geneva, and meet with high-level experts. The IHC, which focuses on contemporary humanitarian issues, is organized solely by undergraduate and graduate International Relations students. This way, students get not only an opportunity to meet and network with leading experts in the international community, but they also get to practice and demonstrate their organizational & academic skills.
 
Each year, the conference attracts an average of 300 participants, including diplomats, academics, and senior staff from international organizations. The program also usually includes one or more student speakers from the International Relations program.
 
Speakers include experts and senior representatives from international organizations, NGOs, government, business, and academia, who share their experience on a wide range of current humanitarian issues. The conference is open both to experts and the general public, and all presentations are compiled, edited and published by the organizing students in Refugee Survey Quarterly (Oxford Journals). It has been held under the auspices of the Government of the Canton of Geneva each year since 1996. The conference has also benefited from the annual participation of valuable partners, including the ICRC, UNHCR, Médecins du Monde and The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
 
Queries, questions and comments: conference@webster.ch

The proceedings and photographs from previous events can be found here.

Date: 
13 Feb - 14 Feb