Armed conflicts are increasingly being fought in urban areas. Wars in cities cause innumerable suffering to civilians, disrupting their livelihoods, the education of children, and the delivery of essential services. From Marawi to Mariupol, the world has witnessed how urban conflicts have resulted in destruction, poverty, and death.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in partnership with the Embassy of Switzerland in the Philippines and the Intramuros Administration, launched on August 18 the “War in Cities” exhibit, which features objects that were found following the armed conflicts in Iraq, and the Philippines, specifically from Marawi and Zamboanga.
The exhibit, held as part of commemorations of international humanitarian law (IHL) month in the Philippines, is open to the public from August 19 to 31 at the Baluartillo de San Francisco tunnel in the historic Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila.
In his opening remarks, Boris Michel, head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippines, said that the Philippines was an active participant in the multilateral process, led by Ireland, to develop a Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas. The Declaration was finalized this year and will be opened for signature in the coming months. The Declaration includes a strong, clear statement that States need to change the way that they plan and conduct hostilities in populated areas to protect civilians and civilian objects from harm.
“This is a significant step towards better protection for populations living in urban centers, and is an excellent demonstration of commitment to international humanitarian law. We are encouraging all States to endorse the Declaration when it opens for signature, and to fully implement its positions,” he said.
The “War in Cities” exhibit was first mounted by the ICRC in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2017. This traveling exhibit provides the public a glimpse of the humanitarian needs and resilient spirit of those who lived through urban warfare.
Visitors can expect to see a disfigured doll recovered from the rubbles of a home in Iraq, a badly damaged desk sourced from a school in Zamboanga, and drawings made by children affected by the Marawi conflict, among others. The exhibit will also show audio-visual materials from the ICRC archives dating back to 1922, and audio excerpts of testimonies by former ICRC staff and from other people affected by urban conflict.