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Annual report 2012: Protecting and assisting those most in need

27-06-2013 Annual Report

ICRC president Peter Maurer's message for the 2012 Annual Report.

Peter Maurer 

Peter Maurer
© ICRC

In 2012, millions of people around the world fell victim to armed conflicts and other situations of violence, facing death, injury and immeasurable suffering. Countless numbers of children, women and men were forced to flee their homes, losing their property and livelihoods and in many cases becoming separated from family members. Many thousands were detained, leaving them exposed to the risks of ill-treatment and disappearance.

The ICRC worked persistently to protect and assist the most vulnerable of these people through a neutral, impartial and independent approach – aligning priorities with needs, bringing its action close to the affected people and engaging with all relevant stakeholders. Such a principled and contextualized approach – combining practical, legal and diplomatic aspects – facilitated the widest possible acceptance and respect and, through this, the broadest possible humanitarian access in a range of complex crises giving rise to multifaceted needs.

 

In this way, the ICRC was one of very few humanitarian organizations able to operate inside the Syrian Arab Republic (hereafter Syria) during the year, working with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to deliver food, clean water, medical supplies and other essential relief to people affected by the spiralling conflict. In northern Mali, it was able to bring timely and effective aid to people suffering the combined effects of armed conflict and food crisis, including through large-scale food distributions, improved access to clean water supplies, and support for medical structures. Likewise, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the ICRC was well placed to rapidly scale up its protection and assistance operations when an upsurge of fighting in North Kivu triggered yet more displacement and compounded an already severe and protracted humanitarian crisis. This illustrated the value of the ICRC’s established practice of maintaining its presence and activities in the most sensitive areas of the world, combined with the flexibility to scale its activities up or down in response to changing needs.

Somalia, Mogadishu. Displaced people receive food from the ICRC in a joint operation with the Somali Red Crescent.  

Somalia, Mogadishu. Displaced people receive food from the ICRC in a joint operation with the Somali Red Crescent.
© ICRC / O. Warsame / v-p-so-e-00646

Indeed, away from the international spotlight on crises such as those in Syria and in the occupied Palestinian territory, more particularly in the Gaza Strip, the ICRC maintained major operations in numerous armed conflicts where both chronic and acute humanitarian needs on a massive scale received relatively little attention. Afghanistan was one example, with the situation of civilians after three decades of intermittent conflict and insecurity remaining highly precarious, not least ahead of the withdrawal of international military forces from the country. Somalia was another, with continued fighting, particularly in central and southern parts of the country, further intensifying the vulnerabilities and needs of the beleaguered population. In Colombia – the ICRC’s largest operation in the Americas – fighting also continued despite peace talks aimed at ending the decades-long conflict. In numerous contexts around the world, the fall-out from the continuing global economic and financial crisis further compounded already complex humanitarian needs.

Other large operations included Iraq, Israel and the occupied territories, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.

In 2012, millions of people around the world fell victim to armed conflicts and other situations of violence, facing death, injury and immeasurable suffering. 

In 2012, the ICRC distributed food to some 6.3 million conflict affected people, mainly IDPs and residents, around the world, while close to 2.8 million people received essential household and hygiene items to help them meet their basic needs. In addition, livelihood support programmes enabled people to restore or reinforce their self-sufficiency by boosting their economic security and improving their standard of living. Distributions of productive inputs helped around 2.7 million people spur food production or carry out income-generating activities. Approximately 2.5 million people benefited from work, service and training opportunities, including food/cash-for-work programmes, through which they gained employable skills or improved their ability to pursue livelihoods, and over 500,000 received cash assistance, including grants for launching small businesses.

Syria, Homs. Local people help Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers unload food parcels from a truck into a warehouse. 

Syria, Homs. Local people help Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers unload food parcels from a truck into a warehouse.
© ICRC / I. Malla / v-p-sy-e-00105

More than 22 million people benefited from ICRC water, sanitation and construction activities. In Iraq, for example, the ICRC partially or completely renovated infrastructure in conflict-affected areas where needs were acute and no alternative support was available, and trained Iraqi technical staff to help them maintain critical public services and facilities in the long term. In Ethiopia, the ICRC built wells to provide access to clean drinking water to thousands of people living in conflict-affected areas along the border with Eritrea.

Some 7.2 million people worldwide benefited from ICRC health related activities. In the Somali capital of Mogadishu, for instance, thousands of wounded and sick people continued to receive treatment at the ICRC-supported Keysaney and Medina hospitals, which have been providing emergency medical care for over 20 years, since the start of the armed conflict. In Bani Walid, Libya, the ICRC provided urgently needed surgical and medical supplies to local health structures when fighting resumed in the city in October.

Throughout the year, 540,669 detainees in 1,744 places of detention received visits from the ICRC; 26,609 of them were monitored individually. These visits, based on confidential dialogue with the detainees and the detaining authorities, helped ensure humane treatment and conditions of detention in line with internationally recognized standards. In November, the government of Myanmar authorized the resumption of ICRC visits to detainees in the country  – a notable development since the interruption of visits in 2005.
 

Some 7.2 million people worldwide benefited from ICRC health related activities.

The most critical constraints confronting the ICRC as it carried out its mission continued to be limitations on access and staff security, caused in large part by lack of respect for IHL by parties to armed conflict. The violent deaths of ICRC staff while on duty in Pakistan and Yemen in 2012 were a tragic loss to those close to them and to the organization as a whole, prompting a review of security arrangements and, in the case of Pakistan, the adjustment of some key activities.

On a programme level, the ICRC’s activities over the past year continued to be guided by its institutional strategy 2011–2014, which builds on its unique mandate and particular strengths as a humanitarian actor in armed conflicts and other situations of violence, while recognizing the need to better connect with changing actors and to adapt to the evolving global context. To this end, the ICRC aimed to enhance and share its expertise, coordinating with other humanitarian agencies, building strategic relationships with both traditional and emerging actors of influence, including key States, and developing partnerships with National Societies, UN agencies and local stakeholders.

Uganda, Nyakadande refugee settlement. The ICRC and the Ugandan Red Cross enable refugees from DRC to contact family members from which they were separated by means of a Red Cross message or phone. 

Uganda, Nyakadande refugee settlement. The ICRC and the Ugandan Red Cross enable refugees from DRC to contact family members from which they were separated by means of a Red Cross message or phone.
© ICRC / F. Bagenal / v-p-ug-e-00341

Cooperation within the Movement proved to be of particular importance, with diverse and sensitive contexts such as Mali, the occupied Palestinian territory and Syria demonstrating the significance of practical and flexible coordination arrangements adapted to each situation. National Societies were vital partners in many challenging situations of armed conflict or violence, highlighting the need to strengthen this type of cooperation and support among partners within the Movement in order to maximize the effectiveness of the humanitarian response.

The exposure of health care workers to violence was one particular issue that required partnership and cooperation between National Societies and the ICRC at both policy and practical levels. The Health Care in Danger project – a multi-year project aiming to ensure protection and better access to health care for the wounded and sick in armed conflicts and other emergencies – was an important institutional priority. After the 31st International Conference adopted a far-reaching resolution in support of the project in December 2011, the ICRC began consultations with experts from States, the Movement and other stakeholders in the health care sector. The Health Care in Danger symposium held in London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in April and the eighth Pan-African Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in October were two notable events during the year where such consultations took place, and where strong cooperation on the operational, expert and communication fronts was evident.

 

Throughout the year, 540,669 detainees in 1,744 places of detention received visits from the ICRC;...

In the domain of IHL, the ICRC made authoritative contributions to a number of key issues. These efforts included pushing for a strong arms trade treaty at the diplomatic conference in New York, United States of America, in July, highlighting the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and, together with National Societies, urging concrete action by States towards the achievement of a nuclear-free world and respect for their commitment to implement the Mine Ban Convention. Elsewhere, the ICRC began the follow-up to the 31st International Conference resolution on strengthening legal protection for victims of armed conflicts, which was the outcome of its two-year study on the issue and subsequent consultation process with States. Beginning with the priority areas of the protection of persons deprived of their freedom in relation to non-international armed conflicts and international mechanisms to monitor compliance with IHL, the ICRC began the next phase of consultations with States and other key stakeholders on a range of options and recommendations aimed at strengthening legal protection in these domains.

Myanmar, Thee Chaung Camp. An emergency evacuation team transfers a young child from a health post in the camp to Sittwe hospital. 

Myanmar, Rakhine State. An emergency evacuation team transfers a young child from a health post in the camp to Sittwe hospital.
© ICRC / A. Zaw Myo / v-p-mm-e-00132

The year also marked the end of an era for the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany, and the ICRC: after over half a century of overseeing its administration, the ICRC handed over management of the ITS to the German government on 31 December. Founded in 1943 to provide answers to millions of families who had lost touch with relatives during the Second World War, the ITS subsequently transformed itself from an agency set up solely to facilitate family reunification to a major archive and a centre for historical research and education. The ICRC will remain in regular contact with the ITS and provide technical expertise through its Central Tracing Agency in Geneva, Switzerland, tracing agencies in ICRC delegations, and the tracing services of National Societies around the world.

Finally, major efforts were made in 2012 to advance the ICRC’s New People Management programme, to enhance its information management systems and supply chain management, and to invest in the professionalism of its workforce, which is increasingly asked to respond in ever more complex and demanding contexts. The ICRC’s response capacity will continue to depend on its ability to mobilize the necessary human and financial resources to fulfil its operational objectives and to improve its capacity to adapt internal structures, communication capabilities and workflows.