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The ICRC Corporate Support Group

07-10-2005 Interview

The ICRC Corporate Support Group has been launched at a meeting in Geneva between the ICRC President, Jakob Kellenberger, and leading members of Switzerland's business community.

    

The seven founding members of the Corporate Support Group are ABB Ltd., Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch & Cie, Roche, Swiss Re, Vontobel Group, Fondation Hans Wilsdorf and Zurich Financial Services.

   
   
 
  Gilles Carbonnier, ICRC's Head of Private Sector Relations    
    The ICRC's Head of Private Sector Relations, Gilles Carbonnier, talks about some of the issues invol ved.

    

 Why this partnership now?  

For decades, the ICRC has developed close relations with civil and military authorities, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and academic circles. Until recently however, the ICRC had very few systematic contacts with the business community, except when buying goods and services from private suppliers.

By the end of the 1990s the ICRC, with several objectives in mind, felt it necessary to expand its network by engaging with the private sector in for example the exchange of expertise and know-how and the diversification of funding sources. This is why the ICRC has recently approached a selected group of Swiss-based companies to establish the Corporate Support Group .

    

 Is it because the ICRC faces financial difficulties?  

No. The organization gets the majority of its funds from individual governments and the European Commission: States continue to support the ICRC in carrying out the mandate that they have entrusted to the organization, and there is no indication whatsoever that their support is faltering. The creation of the Corporate Support Group is part of a long-term strategy to diversify funding sources.

    

 Why these partner companies?  

 
2004 funding by donor type    
 
 
  • Governments 80%
  • European Commission 10%
  • Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies 5%
  • Private Sources* 4% of which less than 0.5% from companies
  • Other 1%

  •    
     

The ICRC has decided to approach selected companies based on ethical guidelines. The objective is to ensure that the policies and activities of partner companies do not contradict the ICRC's identity and mission. The ICRC would not for instance approach arms manufacturers, or firms actively involved in humanitarian law and human rights violations, or companies whose products and activities are deleterious to health.

These guidelines have been established on the basis of the ICRC's mandate and of the principles and Statutes of the International Movement of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent.

    

 How much money have these companies donated and for which purposes?  

The corporate partners of the ICRC have pledged to donate a minimum amount of three million Swiss francs over a period of six years. Part of the donations will be allocated to the capital or " endowment fund " of the Foundation for the ICRC. Interest from the Fund will finance the continuous training of ICRC staff. It may further serve as collateral to help the ICRC borrow the necessary funds – at the best market conditions - to launch life-saving operations in response to emergencies. Other corporate partners have decided to allocate their donations directly to humanitarian activities in the field. This includes support for the operations that the ICRC launched in Indonesia and Sri La nka in the direct aftermath of the tsunami of 26 December 2004.

    

    

 How far does it contribute to diversify funding sources?  

    

Donations from the business community today account for less than 0.5% of the ICRC's overall expenditure. Our objective is to bring this ratio to 3% in the framework of a broader attempt to diversify our funding sources. Yet it is clear that governments are - and shall remain - the ICRC's major donors.

Let us not forget that the States signatory to the Geneva Convention have entrusted the ICRC with the mandate to guard and promote international humanitarian law as well as to assist and protect the victims of armed conflict. In this context, it is important that the States continue to support the ICRC in order to allow the organization to carry out its mandate effectively.

    

 What next?  

We now plan to develop the Corporate Support Group by promoting exchanges with the founding company members in several areas of mutual interest, be it with regard to management, human resources, logistics, risk management, communications, and so on. We are exploring these opportunities together with our corporate partners, in a collaborative exercise inside the Corporate Support Group. We further wish to broaden the Group by inviting other companies to join.