American Red Cross hosts first-ever Clara Barton IHL Competition

The new IHL competition is named after Clara Barton, who founded the American Red Cross

The new IHL competition is named after Clara Barton, who founded the American Red Cross

Some of the nation's brightest law students are gathering in Washington DC this week to learn how to tackle the increasingly complicated challenges presented by modern warfare and contemporary armed conflicts. Eric Sigmund of the American Red Cross* introduces us to the Clara Barton Competition.

Like the ICRC, the American Red Cross has long been committed to alleviating the suffering of the victims of armed conflict, while advocating for limits as to how wars are fought.

In fact, it's a tradition that started more than 150 years ago with the founder of the American Red Cross, Clara Barton, who risked her life to help others during the Civil War, and whose legacy continues to serve as an inspiration for our work throughout the world.

In honor of this legacy and in recognition of the increasing challenges posed by modern warfare and contemporary conflicts, the American Red Cross – in partnership with the ICRC's Washington DC delegation and the American Society of International Law – has launched a new program for students studying international humanitarian law or IHL (also known as the Law of Armed Conflict).

The first-ever Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition pays tribute to her contribution to the development of international law, while serving as a forum to strengthen the rule of law by training the next generation of advocates.

Launched on March 12, the simulation-based experiential learning competition aims to develop young professionals’ knowledge of IHL and build practical skills essential for successful careers in this field after graduation. Open to Juris Doctor (J.D.) and Master of Laws (LL.M.) candidates, as well as students at military institutions, the Competition explores the application of IHL through a series of fictional, but realistic, role-playing exercises based on case studies of armed conflict.

Taking into account that the practice of IHL is conducted by a wide array of actors often far removed from the courtroom, the Clara Barton Competition breaks away from the traditional model of American legal competitions.

Unlike classical moot-court events, participants in the Clara Barton Competition will assume the role of different actors during each exercise and be asked to accomplish a variety of field assignments reflective of real life experiences.

This dynamic model will challenge students' ability to present, advocate, and defend legal positions with a diverse range of stakeholders in different simulated environments. Through this unique approach, the Clara Barton Competition compliments the greater emphasis placed on experiential learning by academic institutions by providing students an opportunity to enhance their understanding of the law in practice and cutting edge legal issues facing the community of practitioners today. 

Thirteen teams representing J.D. and LL.M programs at law schools throughout the country, as well as the US Air Force Academy and the US Military Academy at West Point, are competing in the inaugural edition of the Competition, which runs until March 15.  

To learn more about the event, please visit the American Red Cross online.

* Eric C. Sigmund is a Legal Advisor for the International Humanitarian Law program at the American Red Cross, National Headquarters in Washington, D.C.  He is a co-founder of the Clara Barton Competition.