Denmark: War is recent history yet long forgotten

Published: 18 April 2014 16:10 CET

By Lasse Norgaard, IFRC Europe Zone Communications Coordinator

A number of European National Societies are commemorating 150 years of humanitarian action in 2014, amongst them Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy and Spain. The Danish Red Cross is creating a number of events that brings war closer to the population in an attempt to change people`s hearts and minds.

The battle of Solferino is allegedly more famous than the battle of Dybboel Banke. However, where the first one created the vision and idea of a neutral, independent and impartial agency to assist victims of wars, the latter was the first time international delegates were dispatched to a conflict. April 18 marks the 150th anniversary the battle at Dybboel Banke, which actually was the final battle of a short but brutal war in 1864, ending with Denmark submitting land to Germany.


The day was marked with a number of events, and the Danish Red Cross had established a “centre of experience” with a.o. a unique, artistic collaboration between the war photographer, Jan Grarup, musician, Mikael Simpson, and the artist community, ArtRebels.

Throughout the year a number of events will focus on the consequences of war.

“We were born on the battlefield and therefore to us, it is a paradox that only five per cent of the Danes have supported our relief work for the victims of the war in Syria”, says Morten Laursen, the coordinator of the events.

“A recent study shows, that only three per cent of the Danes find that helping victims of war is the most important cause to support. To us, war has in many ways become a distant and confusing matter,” he says. “At the same time, Denmark is a belligerent nation where our soldiers take part in conflicts around the world. Refugees from war-torn nations seek asylum in Denmark, so war is not that distant after all” he adds.

Going new ways

The Danish Red Cross has realized that the consequences of wars and conflicts need to be articulated in ways that point beyond the news and facts from different war zones like Damascus, CAR, or South Sudan. The organization has built partnerships with actors and with art- and cultural institutions, which envisage and organize a wide range of events in urban spaces, on social media, and many public spaces. As a result of these partnerships artistic performances and installations, music and a long list of other events will involve the Danes all through 2014, rouse their senses, ask questions, touch and provoke them.

“We hope to reach the minds and hearts of the Danes and change their attitudes”, says Morten Laursen.

One example of a creative partner is Roskilde Festival, which is the largest music festival in Northern Europe, while another is CPH PIX – the leading international fiction film festival in Denmark. A Danish ambulance with bullet holes will be part of many events, stirring some curiosity but also communicating the message that being a relief worker is an increasingly dangerous job.