The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) surveyed more than 16,000 millennials in 16 countries, both at peace and at war, late last year. To coincide with this survey, Australian Red Cross asked over 1,000 Australians to share their views on a range of issues relating to war.
The results are both reassuring and alarming.
“Overall they demonstrate that the humanitarian values enshrined in the laws of war, what’s known as international humanitarian law (IHL), are understood and people think they should be protected,” says Yvette Zegenhagen, Head of International Humanitarian Law at Australian Red Cross.
The study found Australians believe war and climate change are the most important issues faced by the world today, while war is seen by global millennials as one of the top five important issues affecting people around the world.
Ms Zegenhagen says if millennials are right about a third world war in their lifetime, then the laws of war will be essential to limit suffering.
The laws of war, enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, sets out what can and can’t be done during armed conflict. Every day in conflict zones around the world these laws save lives and ease suffering. The laws of war limit the weapons and tactics that can be used, prohibit torture and protect civilians, medical personnel, aid workers, injured soldiers and detainees.
It was heartening that more than three in five Australians believe that the laws of war reduce suffering in armed conflicts, Ms Zegenhagen says.
But both surveys reveal worrying trends that point to a lack of respect for the basic human values underlying the laws of war.
“It is alarming to find that more Australians believe it is acceptable to torture enemy soldiers than when we asked this question three years ago,” says Ms Zegenhagen.
The ICRC also found 36 percent of millennials believe captured enemy combatants should not be allowed to contact their relatives, a basic right under IHL. For those impacted by conflict, however, the numbers shift dramatically with 85 percent of Syrians saying captured enemy combatants should be allowed to contact their relatives.
The ‘Millennials on War’ report conducted by the ICRC is a snapshot of the top concerns of millennials surveyed in 16 countries at peace and at war. Seven countries surveyed were in the midst of armed conflict including Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Colombia. The ‘People on War’ survey conducted by Australian Red Cross in Australia is a snapshot of views on a range of issues relating to war.