DC area to host Global Refugee Simulation & Conference

What factors or circumstances force people to flee their homes in search of safety and shelter? What types of assistance does the ICRC provide to internally displaced people (IDPs)? When is it okay for an armed group or military to attack civilians? (Hint: NEVER!) What are the basic rules that combatants must respect? What are some differences between IDPs and refugees? How does international humanitarian law (IHL) protect IDPs?

These are a few of the questions participants in this weekend's Global Refugee Simulation & Conference will tackle. Organized by the American Red Cross, the GRSC aims to educate university students and young professionals about the challenges that tens of millions of IDPs and refugees face around the world.

Approximately 500 young adults from the Washington DC area will take part in Saturday's simulation at an old Civil War battleground, known as Bull Run, in Virginia. Volunteers from the ICRC, UNHCR, IRC and other organizations, as well as members of the US military, will be on-hand to help make the scenario as real as possible. The hope is that the participants will walk away with an enhanced understanding of the complex humanitarian issues affecting civilians in armed conflicts, as well as the laws that exist to protect them.

Throughout the course of the afternoon, the participants will be uprooted and forced to flee, separated from fictional family members, stripped of their dignity, asked to build shelters, seek medical help, and stand on-line for food at a distribution point. Some will be detained and others will encounter fake landmines. (Of course, safety will come first – it is a simulation after all – and any violence will be purely pretend.)

The second half of the event will take place on Sunday, when the American Red Cross will host a Global Digital Conference – open to Netizens of all nations – during which experts, including the ICRC's Vice President, Christine Beerli, and our head of delegation in Colombia, Jordi Raich, will provide insight from Geneva & Bogotá on how the ICRC works to protect and assist IDPs.

Here in DC, our head of Regional Delegation for North America, François Stamm, will participate throughout the four-hour conference, which can be viewed online from 10:00am to 2:00pm EST. (Mrs. Beerli will deliver the keynote remarks at around 10:20 EST and Mr. Raich is scheduled to appear around 1:20pm EST.)

Webcast viewers can send in questions for the participants, which also include the president of Refugees International, Michel Gabaudan, Amnesty USA's International Advocacy Director, T. Kumar, and the American Red Cross' IHL director, Christie Edwards. Special messages will be delivered by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, and US Assistant Secretary of State, Anne Richard.

For more information go to: http://www.grsc2014.org/ Follow the action on Twitter: #grsc Send questions to: @GRSC2014 View a new slideshow of what we're doing to help refugees in Chad, who have fled the violence in the Central African Republic Learn about the stories of pain and hope shared by Syrian refugees in Jordan Explore an interactive map of how the ICRC helps IDPs in Colombia