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The ICRC regional delegation in Pretoria

07-05-2012 Overview

The ICRC delegation in Pretoria monitors the humanitarian situation in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland. It promotes international humanitarian law, helps restore family links for civilian victims of conflict and strengthens the operational capacity of the region’s National Societies to respond to emergencies.

The ICRC opened a regional delegation in Pretoria in 1978. It keeps a close eye on the domestic situation in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland.

Within the region, South Africa maintains its political and economic influence, engaging in diplomacy and conflict resolution and providing troops for peace-support operations abroad. In April 2011, South Africa joined the group of emerging economies comprising Brazil, China, India and the Russian Federation (also called BRICS).  The country also hosts African Union institutions such as the Pan-African Parliament, a large diplomatic community, regional representations of UN and other humanitarian agencies, think-tanks and major media agencies. Sporadic incidents of violence still occur in the country during protests and strikes.

Foreigners such as migrants occasionally come under attack mainly by locals and the level of urban violence among young people is one of the highest in the world.

The political situations in Swaziland and Lesotho remain fragile.

The Southern African Development Community – headquartered in Botswana – seeks to drive Southern Africa's regional integration agenda. It remains involved in political mediation efforts in Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

The ICRC works to ensure that the region’s governments ratify and implement international humanitarian law (IHL) treaties to which their countries are party, and that their armed forces integrate IHL into their doctrine, training and operations.

The organization also engages the assistance of the media, non-governmental organizations and other civil society actors to increase awareness of humanitarian issues among the public, decision-makers and all those involved in armed conflict or violence, thus achieving greater respect for human dignity. Through a civil society partnership, it supports violence-reduction programming targeting youth and is conducting multi-year impact research. Young people learn about IHL thanks to ICRC support for 14 universities in the region.

The ICRC ensures that persons detained for security reasons in Lesotho are treated humanely and their dignity respected, and that the conditions of detention conform to internationally recognized standards, including respect for their judicial guarantees. When ICRC delegates visit detainees, the institution makes confidential representations to the authorities regarding their living conditions and treatment.

The ICRC also helps families who are separated by conflicts or violence to re-establish family links. In 2011, more than 780 Red Cross messages were exchanged between families present in the countries covered by the ICRC regional delegation in Pretoria and their loved ones living in Africa or the rest of the world.

The ICRC provides technical, material and financial support to help the region's National Societies promote humanitarian principles, target programming to youth at risk, respond to emergencies and reconnect refugees and asylum seekers with their families, particularly where violence occurs.