In an attempt to answer our readers, the Gstaad Project is launching INTERNATIONAL FOCUS, a new series created to have the public familiarize with international organizations, intergovernmental and non-governmental entities, and job opportunities in the field of humanitarian assistance, diplomacy, and international relations.
The first issue of International Focus is devoted to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Founded in 1863, the ICRC has been working to protect and assist the victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. It initially focused on wounded soldiers but over time it extended its activities to cover all victims of these events.
The ICRC in a nutshell
The ICRC is an independent, neutral organization ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and other situations of violence.
The ICRC has a permanent mandate under international law to take impartial action for prisoners, the wounded and sick, and civilians affected by conflict.
With its HQ in Geneva, Switzerland, the ICRC is based in around 80 countries and has a total of more than 12,000 staff.
In situations of conflict the ICRC coordinates the response by national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and their International Federation.
The ICRC is at the origin of both the International Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement and of international humanitarian law, notably the Geneva Conventions.
The dual nature of the ICRC’s work
The ICRC’s work developed along two lines. The first of these is operational, i.e. helping victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. The second involves developing and promoting international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles.
These two lines are inextricably linked because the first operates within the framework provided by the second, and the second draws on the experience of the first and facilitates the ICRC’s response to the needs identified. This dual nature thus reinforces the very identity of the ICRC and distinguishes it from other international humanitarian organizations, private or intergovernmental, which generally concentrate on just one of these two priorities.
Trusted by all States
To be able to carry out its mission effectively, the ICRC needs to have the trust of all States, parties5 and people involved in a conflict or other situation of violence. This trust is based in particular on an awareness of the ICRC’s policies and practices. The ICRC gains people’s trust through continuity and predictability.
Combining effectiveness and credibility irrespective of time, place or range of needs is a permanent challenge for the organization, because it must be able to prove it can be both pragmatic and creative. Within the framework of the ICRC’s clear strategy and priorities, its delegations in the field are thus given considerable autonomy to decide how best to help victims of conflict and other situations of violence.
Working for the ICRC: be part of the action
What does it mean to go to the field with the ICRC? What can you expect once there? What will you have to do in the field, and what does the ICRC consider important? This film will offer you some answers to those questions, and more. Five top-level ICRC managers discuss their impressions, field experiences and what they think is crucial and decisive when talking about the ICRC and its work.
Diversity at the ICRC
The latest issue of the newsletter of the Washington Delegation of the ICRC, addresses the topic:
The ICRC is a private Swiss organization that has a mandate from the international community of States founded on international law, specifically the Geneva Conventions. This hybrid nature makes the ICRC unique. It is recognized as having an “international legal personality,” meaning that while a private organization, the ICRC is not treated legally as a private entity or an NGO, but as an intergovernmental organization in terms of immunities and privileges for the work it does under its international mandate.
Until the early 1990s, ICRC expatriate staff were exclusively Swiss, primarily for historical reasons relating to Switzerland’s leading role in the founding of the Red Cross Movement. Seeking to benefit from expertise in the international community, the ICRC began a recruitment process to internationalize its workforce. Currently, the overall percentage of Swiss delegates within the ICRC is approximately 40%. Of the 114 delegates recruited in 2009, just 14% were Swiss (86% were non-Swiss) and 20% were recruited through National Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies. At ICRC headquarters, 68 nationalities are represented, and in the field the figure increases to 128.
While its workforce is becoming increasingly diverse, the ICRC needs to ensure that it is accepted in the territories in which it works. Personnel bearing certain passports cannot be assigned to some conflict situations because their nationalities may be negatively perceived by the authorities of a State or the leaders of an armed movement.
As it evolves and adapts, the ICRC must make allowances for these realities in its recruitment, assignment, and long-term human resources management policies. It must also ensure the security of its staff members and guarantee the independence of its activities.
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