Drawn to the Guardian of International Humanitarian Law.


Digvijay Rewatkar, Associate in the Policy and Humanitarian Diplomacy division


1.      Hello Digvijay, can you introduce yourself in a few words?

When I look back at my life, it surprises me as to the distance I have covered from a small town in India where I was brought up to having the opportunity to work for an esteemed organization such as the ICRC. As a student in school, and I remember this distinctly from my classes on social sciences (civics), what interested me the most was to read about the different political systems that existed in the world. I read up extensively on countries such as Chile, Poland, Belgium, Myanmar, Former Yugoslavia, etc. Later, in law school, as I indulged further in my interests, I acquired the appropriate perspective to understand these varied systems and their influence on law.


"And I increasingly started seeing law as a tool to determine the relationship between society and the State. However, it was in my third year of law school when I was first exposed to international humanitarian law (IHL), and this altered my perspective of looking at law."


I realized that armed conflict was antithetical to the deterministic nature of law (suggested documentary: ‘The Death of Yugoslavia’ by the BBC – I have watched it five times). This led me to increasingly channel my energies into exploring IHL, and that is when I learnt about the ICRC. However, it always seemed a distant dream to work for the organization.

2.      When did you join the ICRC? In which department/unit?

I joined the ICRC’s policy and humanitarian diplomacy team in February 2019. Given this opportunity to share my story, I must also thank the ICRC and the team for providing me with this opportunity to work amongst them.

3.      Why did you decide to do a traineeship at the ICRC?

As I said earlier, as I indulged further in studying and reading about States which experienced armed conflict, I learnt about the ICRC and its delegates, who work in these adverse conditions to provide protection to people in need. I thereafter read about the experiences of Dr. Marcel Junod, an ICRC delegate during the 1940s, and his documented experiences in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), Spain, Germany, Japan and Greece. His experiences inspired me to align my goals to work for an organization such as the ICRC, and led me to undertake a master’s in public international law from Leiden University. Further, the neutral, impartial and people-centric role that the ICRC plays in situations of armed conflict seemed the most reasonable approach.


"The space that the ICRC has carved for itself in such complex situations is unique, and it offers the opportunity to explore the social dynamics of societies affected by conflict and at the same time contribute to alleviating the needs of the people. This combination is what resonated with me the most and inspired me to join the ICRC."


4.      What does your traineeship entail? What are your responsibilities?

Policy and humanitarian diplomacy work at the ICRC is very dynamic and allows you to work on current policy issues and the external engagement of the ICRC. On policy, I was fortunate to be working on the issue of climate change and conflict, which was an emerging workstream at the ICRC. I worked closely with the Policy Adviser, providing support on literature reviews, stakeholder-relations and position-mapping, and also taking the lead on elements of research. Regarding diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region, my responsibilities involved covering external meetings, writing diplomatic briefs and working with delegations to strategize their engagement with the respective States or regional organization(s) as appropriate. The job, on both fronts, requires you to have some foresight of potential issues and discussions in order to ensure organizational preparedness for potential opportunities.

5.      Do you have any special memories or anecdotes to share with us?

While there are many memories that I could share, I will spare you all the details. Overall, it is incredible to see the commitment of people at the ICRC and the gearing of the whole organization towards the single goal of alleviating the suffering of people affected by armed conflict. It is always interesting to speak with different people and hear about their experiences in the field.

I remember my first day at the ICRC; the experience was surreal and the fact that I was going to work at the ICRC hadn’t fully dawned upon me. Sitting in the first meeting, introducing myself and getting to know the rest of the team was something that I will never forget.


"Further, in my view, the best part for a young professional at the ICRC is the ecosystem it offers. You are always surrounded by people who are working towards the same objective. And, in my case, I was far away from home, yet I felt I was in a space where I was equally at ease."


6.      What are your future plans?

The experience in policy and diplomacy work provides me with a unique set of skills which are attractive to any humanitarian organization. Given my interest in working closely with communities, I plan to further delve into humanitarian work and preferably continue to work on climate-change concerns on the ground. It is becoming increasingly necessary that, as youth, we get involved in understanding the various effects of climate change and its impact on people, so that we have the appropriate knowledge base to deal with the challenges yet to come.

7.      Any advice for future trainees?

The ICRC provides a work environment that is conducive to professional and personal development. It is key that you dedicate significant time to developing these skills, through the various events and socializing opportunities it offers, besides your everyday work.