Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 February 2020

Red Cross: nearly half of millennials expect a third world war

More than half believe nuclear weapons will be used within the next 10 years, survey finds

War-ravaged buildings in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Syrian millennials highly support showing humanity in wartime, a Red Cross survey found. AFP
War-ravaged buildings in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Syrian millennials highly support showing humanity in wartime, a Red Cross survey found. AFP

More than half of millennials fear there will be a nuclear attack somewhere in the world within the next decade, according to a survey by the Red Cross.

The poll of 16,000 people between 20 and 35 found that 47 per cent also believed it was more likely than not that there would be a third world war in their lifetime.

"Millennials appear to see cataclysmic war as a real likelihood in their lifetime," Peter Maurer, president of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a foreword to the report.

The participants in the survey were from both war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Syria and largely peaceful ones like Britain and France.

The Red Cross used online panels, face to face interviews and telephone interviews to reach people in 16 countries.

The most striking result came in reply to the question: "In your opinion, how likely or unlikely is it that nuclear weapons will be used in wars or armed conflicts anywhere in the world within the next 10 years?"

Fifty-four per cent said they felt it was likely such weapons would be used.

However, 74 per cent of the millennials also believe that wars are avoidable, and nearly the same number – 75 per cent – think that limits must be imposed on how wars are fought.

But the survey also revealed some "worrying trends", the Red Cross said, such as the answers they received to the question: "In your opinion, is torturing captured enemy combatants acceptable under some circumstances, or is it never acceptable?"

About 41 per cent said they would support torture in some circumstances.

And just 54 per cent had heard of the Geneva Conventions, agreed in 1949 to protect prisoners of war and civilians in war time in response to the horrors of the Second World War.

Mr Maurer said the results also revealed "a worrying acceptance of dehumanising language or actions towards perceived or real 'enemies' that is prevailing in an era of fake news, disinformation and polarised viewpoints".

But there was some optimism, such as the 60 per cent of Syrians polled who said they believed the current civil conflict would end within the next five years.

Support for showing humanity in war was also highest among the Syrian respondents, with 85 per cent saying captured combatants should be allowed to contact relatives and 70 per cent saying torture was never acceptable.

The highest support for torture of captured enemy combatants was in Israel, Nigeria and the United States.

The Red Cross was established in 1863 with a mandate to protect the victims of conflict.

Updated: January 19, 2020 07:20 PM

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