The ICRC in Africa: Context and challenges
31-12-2003 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 852, by Christoph Harnisch
This article outlines the various political and socio-economic contexts in which many of the African conflicts take place. The nature and characteristics of the (mainly internal) armed conflicts are examined. In particular, the article reviews the work of the ICRC in these contexts and identifies the obstacles to efficient humanitarian assistance and protection.
Africa is home to many armed conflicts, waged in an environment in which it is already difficult for people to live and for countries to develop. The ICRC has long been and still is widely active there. This article first outlines the general context in which many of the African conflicts take place, giving a brief account of Africa's position in world politics and the prevailing socio-economic conditions. It then goes on to describe the nature of the – mainly internal – armed conflicts that plague the continent. Although most of them seem to have abated, the relative calm remains very fragile. After indicating some of the main characteristics of armed conflict in Africa, the author also points out the effect of a revival of interest in Africa in connection with the global " war on terror " . Finally, the work of the ICRC in Africa is analysed: how is the ICRC perceived on the continent, what does it actually do? And above all, what are the obstacles to efficient humanitarian assistance and protection, and what challenges lie ahead?