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U. Tokyo Takes First at the 2019 ICRC IHL Role Play Competition in Malaysia

Adapted from Maja Liechti

On Nov. 17, 2019, students Hwa Namkoong, Amishi Agrawal, and Issa Shiraishi won first place at the Asia-Pacific Regional Round of the 2019 ICRC International Humanitarian Law Role Play Competition.

After winning the national round, six students from the University of Tokyo were sent to compete and observe in Malaysia for the Asia-Pacific round of the annual ICRC International Humanitarian Law Role Play Competition. Seven students were trained in role play within international humanitarian law by Professor Ai Kihara-Hunt.

A total of eight simulations distributed over two days were held. The first round consisted of field simulations with different components. Having to simulate being part of an UN assessment team, the team had to negotiate with individuals who were on an area where landmines were suspected, leaders of armed groups that contained child soldiers, military checkpoints and finally, had to report their findings to UNCTAD. The parties that had to be negotiated with usually consisted of the judges, which was the case for each scenario. All the simulations were based on the same background information of a made-up conflict, which was distributed to the teams well in advance. The judges made it certainly a challenge for the competitors to negotiate with. Not only had the team to negotiate with leaders of armed groups, but also with wounded civilians that were asking them for aid. To them, they had to explain that they are only there to assess the situation.

In another simulation, the teams had to teach IHL to combatants so that they would respect IHL principles when fighting. The task was followed by a military checkpoint, where the difficulty was to prove to the military personnel that negotiations with the army officer were made in advance to let the team into the checkpoint. The final simulation of the day consisted of a meeting with UNCTAD, where the teams, representing different UN bodies such as UNICEF or IOM, had to report on what they have encountered in their field missions, ideally referring to all the checkpoints. The judge pointed out that in this particular situation the major aim was not to compete but to exchange information between different UN bodies as well as to come to a conclusion for action after coming to a conclusion on the assessment of particular checkpoints. Needless to say that one of the difficulties of the competition is that the focus can shift from competing to trying to find ways to cooperate.

The next day started with the fourth simulation, which then brought the team into the semi-final round. After winning the semi-final round, which consisted of a Security Council simulation where it was discussed on whether a peacekeeping operation should be launched, the participants were able to take a break before the final round on stage in front of everyone.

Eventually, the team overcame several challenges and applied their learned knowledge about International Humanitarian Law in various different contexts as they would encounter in a real situation. However, despite their strong opponents including a team of masters in law students in the final round, the team eventually won the first prize as it was announced during the last dinner at the hotel.

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