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At the dawn of the year 2000, armed conflict and outbreaks of violence are on the increase worldwide

17-12-1999 News Release 99/50

The current year has been marked by a series of crises which, although mostly foreseeable, were nonetheless surprising on account of their magnitude or timing. One can now speak of the " globalization of warfare " .

This observation was made by Jean-Daniel Tauxe, ICRC Director of Operations, during a presentation to the press of the ICRC's budget for its operations in the year 2000. The press conference, which followed a similar session held for representatives of the permanent missions in Geneva, offered the opportunity to give a comprehensive overview of humanitarian problems worldwide. Today's conflict situations exhibit certain specific characteristics, as shown by the examples outlined below:

- Their unpredictable nature: the explosion of violence in the northern Caucasus region, for instance, and the extreme difficulty for the ICRC to bring protection and assistance to the victims. Then there are the very severe consequences of the conflict which sporadically flares up in the Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), amid the general indifference of the international community.

- Escalation of crises: the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia/Kosovo has seen a mass exodus of civilians and NATO's first offensive mission. In East Timor too, violence which had been anticipated reached unforeseen levels. The war between Ethiopia and Eritrea has also taken a heavy toll among the military.

- Resurgence of fighting: the most striking example is Angola, where armed violence has once again given rise to vast needs among the civilian populat ion.

- Stagnation: as in Somalia, where the warlords are still locked in combat; Iraq, where the population is suffering increasingly severe hardship from the effects of the embargo; Colombia, where the civil war has become almost an accepted fact of life for a population with no memory of peace; and Afghanistan, where 20 years of war have left the international community discouraged.

This list, which is far from exhaustive, means that the ICRC had to be present in some 60 countries in 1999. Of these, 21 were in a state of open conflict, that is, conflict that obliged the organization to deploy the full range of its protection and assistance programmes. As the year draws to an end, there is no reason to believe that this tide of violence will recede in the year 2000.

Given the number and complexity of conflict situations, the ICRC has defined the following strategic priorities to guide its work next year.

- The general deterioration of security conditions for humanitarian personnel as well as for the victims of violence represents a constant challenge for the ICRC, which reaffirms its determination to remain close to the victims whom it is its duty to protect and assist. There is every indication that this challenge will remain a major factor in the conduct of operations next year.

- the ICRC intends to maintain and develop contacts with all the players involved in situations of violence. This entails seeking a dialogue also with players whom part of the international community considers to be paramilitaries, terrorists, or even criminals.

- In the context of operations encompassing military, political and humanitarian action, such as the NATO intervention in Kosovo, the ICRC wants to pursue independent humanitarian a ctivities. It will endeavour increasingly to emphasize its specific mandate based on the principles of neutrality, independence and impartiality. In operational terms, fulfilling this specific mandate means, among other things, developing activities aimed at protecting displaced persons and detainees and at restoring family links.

- In a world marked by a proliferation of humanitarian players, the ICRC undertakes to pursue a policy of openness towards all of them. Consultation and coordination must be strengthened at all levels; first of all with the members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement but also with United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations.

The total amount requested in the ICRC's appeal for its operations in the year 2000 comes to 837,722,576 Swiss francs. Of this sum, Sfr 347,918,616 are destined for Africa, the top priorities being Central Africa (Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Uganda), Angola, the Horn of Africa and West Africa (Sierra Leone in particular).

The budget for Europe (mainly the Balkans) amounts to Sfr 209,288,679. In Asia, Sfr 102,234,963 are earmarked for operations in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Myanmar and others.

Operations in the Middle East and North Africa, in particular Iraq and Algeria, will account for Sfr 59,467,472.

Finally, the budget for Latin America (priority being given to Colombia and Peru) amounts to Sfr 52,596,771.

It should be pointed out that this appeal does not include the funds needed for operations conducted by the Moscow and Jakarta regional delegations, nor by the new delegation in East Timor. These will be the subject of an additional appeal of about 70 million Swiss francs to be launched early next year.

Finally, the total requested in the appeal, that is, over 837 million Swiss francs, may seem very large in comparison with the initial appeal for 1999, which amounted to Sfr 660,169,500. However, the successive crises that occurred during the year obliged the ICRC to revise its budget on 11 occasions, and the final revised budget for 1999 finally totalled more than 911 million Swiss francs.