Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 02/12/2009

International humanitarian law and electronic gaming

While this recently-published report by Pro Juvente and TRIAL isn’t really about the use of simulations for peacebuilding, it does intersect the topic enough that I’ll stretch the PaxSims mandate and post it anyway. Moreover, I’m enough of an academic and a geek to find the material interesting:

Frida Castillo, Playing by the Rules: Applying International Humanitarian Law to Video and Computer Games (Geneva: Pro Juventute and TRIAL: Track Impunity Always, October 2009).

In computer and videogames, violence is often shown and the players become “virtually violent”. While much research has been done on the effect of such games on the players and their environment, little research exists on whether, if they were committed in real life, violent acts in games would lead to violations of rules of international law, in particular International Humanitarian Law (IHL), basic norms of International Human Rights Law (IHRL) or International Criminal Law (ICL).

Pro Juventute Switzerland and TRIAL (Track Impunity Always), a Swiss NGO assisting victims of grave violations of human rights and aiming at the promotion of international criminal law, have tested various computer and videogames for their compatibility with internationally valid and universally accepted rules of IHL and IHRL. The question they posed themselves was whether certain scenes and acts committed by players would constitute violations of international law if they were real, rather than virtual.

The selected games were played by young gamers under the auspice of Pro Juventute and TRIAL and the legal assessment of the critical scenes was done by three lawyers, particularly trained in the areas of IHL, IHRL and ICL. Professor Marco Sassóli from the University of Geneva, a well known expert in the area of IHL, supervised the legal analysis.

The aim of the study is to raise public awareness among developers and publishers of the games, as well as among authorities, educators and the media about virtually committed crimes in computer and videogames, and to engage in a dialogue with game producers and distributors on the idea of incorporating the essential rules of IHL and IHRL into their games which may, in turn, render them more varied, realistic and entertaining.

If I did teach an IHL course–which I don’t–it would be interesting to assign a fairly realistic military simulation of first person shooter, and have students prepare an IHL analysis of it—including those grey areas within existing IHL and the laws of war (regarding military proportionality, for example).

Georgetown crisis simulation in Qatar

The Gulf Times (25 November 2009) had a recent report on simulation activities at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service campus in Qatar:

Students turn diplomats to resolve ‘crisis’

Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Qatar) and the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy (ISD) at Georgetown hosted a crisis simulation exercise for students at Education City recently.

The two-day event, centring on a fictional stalemate scenario between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory known as Nagorno-Karabakh, gave 21 SFS-Qatar students and a select group of top secondary school students a unique opportunity to personally explore the process and dynamics of conflict resolution and hone their skills in negotiation, diplomacy and critical thinking.

Participants were divided into seven groups, each representing parties to the conflict – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh – along with representatives of Russia, Turkey, Iran and the US, with the aim of conducting intensive negotiations in an effort to reach a settlement over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The exercise, administered by SFS-Qatar assistant dean for academic affairs Daniel C Stoll, as well as James P Seevers and Col Bryan P Fenton of ISD in Washington, DC, was organised as part of an ongoing series of simulations held each semester at SFS-Qatar.

More at the link above.

new simulation links

I’m buried under end-of-term grading at the moment and haven’t had much chance to post to PaxSims. I have, however, added a few new links to our list on the right, including these:

If there are ever any links that readers think should be added to the list, please send us the URLs!

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