The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a neutral institution, which works towards the protection to victims of armed conflicts. They are the custodians of IHL (International Humanitarian Law) through the so-called Rules of War. These rules are universal; countries are legally obligated to uphold them. They set out limits to war, saving lives and reducing suffering, such as condemning attacks against civilians. However, these rules are not being respected.
The ICRC wanted to raise awareness about this issue. They needed to make the general public familiar with the situation that civilians are living in conflict zones. The attacks that are being perpetrated against them are deliberate, and illegal.
The ICRC wants to sensitise the public, and by extension their leaders, about why these laws are relevant today. If they are of interest to the public, they will be of interest to decision makers influenced by their constituents.
Our insight was clear: in times of war, civilian casualties are a result of choices, not accidents. For that, we created a powerful concept: In war there are no accidents. There are decisions.
This message was developed in an online video, which showed the story of Ali, a child living in a country at war. In the film follow him through his ordinary routine, making him someone relatable, a child that could be our son, our friend or us. In the end, no matter what he does, the careless decision-making of those in power has a devastating effect on his life. It’s simple story that shows clearly the difference between an accident, and a decision that should be condemned. It’s a choice to respect the rules of war that can protect civilians, and save lives. The strategy was not to point fingers or name those responsible for the attacks, but instead to connect with the general public through a relevant message, standing out amongst all the bad news they witness daily.
We raised awareness in a way that impacts and mobilizes, with a message that provokes empathy. We approached the problem trying to move people from the position of being observers, watching the news and being aware of the situation; to walking in their shoes and understanding what the real problem is. We didn’t only have to fight against a lack of information, but rather a lack of relevance.