The ICRC, together with the Faculty of Humanities at Chiang Mai University, the Faculty of Science and Humanities at Mahidol University and Shan State Buddhist University, hosted an international conference on “Reducing Suffering During Armed Conflict: The Interface Between Buddhism and International Humanitarian Law” on 9-10 December 2022 in the northern province of Chiang Mai.

This two-day conference brought together over 70 participants from about 20 countries in Asia, Europe and North America, including Buddhist monks, scholars, legal experts, researchers, humanitarian and military personnel. Opening remarks were provided by the ICRC’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Patricia Escolano Guiote, the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Chiang Mai University, Assistant Dean for International Relations and Corporate Communication Affairs at Mahidol University, and the Dean of Shan State Buddhist University.

The conference included over thirty presentations on subjects related to Buddhism and IHL, a number of which will be published in reputed academic journals and here on the ICRC’s Religion and Humanitarian Principles website.

“This project includes many IHL experts who are learning about Buddhism, and many Buddhist scholars and experts learning about IHL, so they can explore together how they can support each other to reduce suffering during war .… We have found not only that many Buddhist principles correspond with IHL, but that Buddhism possesses the ethical and psychological resources to help to improve compliance with it …. Apart from instructing belligerents to adhere to the rules during armed conflict, Buddhist resources might also therefore improve their willingness and capacity to do so”, said Andrew Bartles-Smith, ICRC Regional Manager for Global Affairs.

The conference followed on the first international conference on Buddhism and IHL organized by the ICRC and its partners in Dambulla, Sri Lanka, in 2019. The project aims to explore correspondences between IHL and Buddhist principles and encourage constructive dialogue and exchange between the two domains. It is hoped that it will act as a springboard to understand how Buddhism can contribute to regulating armed conflict and what it offers in terms of guidance on the conduct of, and behavior during, the war for Buddhist monks and lay persons – the latter including government and military personnel, non-State armed groups and civilians.