Syrians carry away the body of a man retrieved from the rubble of a building following a regime air strike on a vegetable…
Syrians carry away the body of a man retrieved from the rubble of a building following a regime airstrike on a vegetable market in Syria's last major opposition bastion of Idlib, Jan. 15, 2020.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - A survey of 16,000 millennials in 16 countries at peace and at war indicates a majority is nervous about the future, and a large plurality believes heightened global tensions are likely to lead to a catastrophic war.  Launch of the report was commissioned last year by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The ICRC survey finds millennials are deeply pessimistic about the future they face.   The results indicate this generation of young people, now between the ages of 25 and 39, is worried about future conflicts and nuclear weapons.  Other top concerns include unemployment, increasing poverty and terrorism.

Among those surveyed, 47% think there will be a third world war in their lifetime.  However, 84% believe the use of nuclear weapons is never acceptable.  ICRC legal adviser Nishat Nishat calls this extremely encouraging.

"I think there is something very encouraging at the fact that millennials, my generation and people in the world, I think generally now have understood the sort of catastrophic effects nuclear weapons could have and how those effects would be just unacceptable regardless of the circumstances under which these would be used,” said Nishat. 

Nevertheless, Nishat notes 54% believe it is more likely than not that a nuclear attack will occur in the next decade.  The survey reveals a worrisome lack of respect for basic human values enshrined in international law.

For example, international law bans torture and inhumane treatment under all circumstances.  Yet, 37% of millennials surveyed believe torture is acceptable under some circumstances. 

ICRC deputy head of resource mobilization Daniel Littlejohn-Carrillo, said an overwhelming majority of respondents believe combatants should avoid civilian casualties as much as possible.  However, he expresses concern that 15% support any actions needed to win a war, regardless of civilian casualties.

"This strongly justifies also the work of the ICRC.  I feel, we feel in making sure that we continue to reach people, in particular that 15% of the population, to ensure that messages, that pressure on policy makers, on decision makers is really geared and oriented towards reducing civilian casualties as much as possible,” he said.

Overall, 73% of respondents say addressing mental health needs of conflict victims is just as important as providing food, water and shelter.

The Geneva Conventions, which regulate how wars are fought, were adopted 70 years ago.  A large majority of millennials surveyed believes more should be done to limit the ways war can be fought.