Mission and Commitment
The mandate of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is to prevent and alleviate human suffering, protect life and health and to ensure respect for human dignity, in particular in times of armed conflicts and other emergencies.
The dissemination of the rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is one of the main tasks of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Participants of armed conflicts need to be familiar with the rules of International Humanitarian Law in order to be able to respect them accordingly.
According to Article 3 of the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Article 2 of the Statutes of the German Red Cross, dissemination forms an important part of the work of the German Red Cross (GerRC). Article 2 of the German Red Cross Act explicitly appoints the GerRC, as a Voluntary Aid Society auxiliary to the German authorities in the humanitarian field, to disseminate International Humanitarian Law and the principles and ideals of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as well as to support the Federal Government in this regard.
Dissemination Work of the German Red Cross
In order to carry out this mission, the GerRC engages actively in the field of dissemination addressing different thematic priorities. Target groups are mainly political and social decision makers, military forces and the police, lawyers, medical personnel, students, the media and the general public.
Next to other dissemination activities, the GerRC organises different courses in IHL for lawyers and law students on the national and regional level since the 1950s. Furthermore, the GerRC, together with the Federal Ministry of Defence, hosts an annual conference with the aim of fostering the dialogue between legal advisors of the Federal Armed Forces and the Dissemination Officers of the GerRC.
In addition, the GerRC manages the German Committee on International Humanitarian Law, which provides exchange on IHL issues between representatives of the GerRC and all relevant ministries as well as academic circles (international law).
Furthermore, the Youth Red Cross engages in the dissemination of International Humanitarian Law and the principles and ideals of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement by organising campaigns and providing educational material for children and the youth.
Dissemination system of the German Red Cross
According to the federal structure of the GerRC, each branch level has its own responsibility for coordinating its dissemination activities in order to facilitate and improve implementation of IHL. Along with the full-time employees, especially the voluntary Dissemination Officers engage in the field of dissemination within their respective branch level.
This system comprises the Federal Dissemination Officer, 19 Regional Dissemination Officers, and several hundred District Dissemination Officers. In Germany, this is a unique opportunity to engage in IHL and humanitarian ethics.
The Federal Dissemination Officer is a high-ranking public international lawyer, who advises the Headquarters of German Red Cross and, as required, departments of the Federal Government in IHL, coordinates and supports the work of the 19 Regional Dissemination Officers and disseminates the positions of the GerRC on IHL at the national and international level. This comprises activities such as publications, lectures and trainings.
Since 2014, Eberhard Desch performs the function of the Federal Dissemination Officer.
The 19 Regional Dissemination Officers are lawyers or of an equal qualification, who advise the regional branches of the GerRC in IHL and coordinate and support the District Dissemination Officers, e.g. by organising seminars and conferences and by maintaining close contacts to authorities and academic institutes which engage in questions concerning IHL and humanitarian ethics. Moreover, they teach especially young lawyers and members of the GerRC in IHL, draw up respective dissemination material and disseminate the positions of the GerRC on IHL at the regional branch level.
The District Dissemination Officers advise the district and local branches of the GerRC in IHL, secure education of active Red Cross Members and the general public concerning IHL and the principles and ideals of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and teach personnel involved in civil defence, e.g. medical personnel.
Ultimately, District Dissemination Officers are contributing to a solidary, not-discriminating society free of violence.