In 1949, 63 countries established the modern Geneva Conventions to strengthen the protections afforded to combatants and civilians in times of armed conflict. But a half century later, many observers felt that the international community’s rules governing warfare and humanitarian law had lost some of their visibility, salience, and suasion, as genocide in Rwanda and a host of other conflicts violated all protections for civilians. As the Geneva Conventions approached their 50th anniversary, how could the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sought a way to give a new sense of energy and imperative to the founding spirit of the Geneva Conventions.


Greenberg Quinlan Rosner worked closely with ICRC staff to design an unprecedented and truly global research project designed to give voice to those who had seen modern wars first-hand - both combatants and civilians - to help the world understand the importance of the Geneva Conventions and the humanitarian principles they embody. The resulting book-length report, titled People on War, produced emotional, ground-breaking insights based on survey interviews and focus groups with nearly 13,000 people in countries around the world - from current and former war zones, such as Colombia, El Salvador, Somalia, Bosnia, Georgia, South Africa, and Israel, to the advanced countries that are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The research measured the prevalence and damage of different types of experiences suffered by civilians, gauged what behavior they view as acceptable during times of war, and produced a powerful body of testimony to the importance of limits, even in the conduct of warfare.


Greenberg Quinlan Rosner worked closely with a global series of research partners and Red Cross/Red Crescent staff to develop and conduct the research, which included surveys, focus groups, and in depth, face to face interviews with a wide range of civilians and combatants in multiple countries around the world.

Image Credit: ICRC / Muhammad, N. /