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The ICRC regional delegation in Washington

29-10-2010 Overview

The Washington regional delegation covers the United States and Canada, promoting IHL, facilitating ICRC operations worldwide through its contacts and visiting people in Guantanamo. It raises awareness of the ICRC's mandate, mobilizes support, facilitates IHL implementation and works closely with the American and Canadian Red Cross Societies.

The ICRC delegation in Washington maintains regular contact with the US law and policy system connecting government, NGOs, media, think-tanks and universities. Network-building and awareness-raising help the ICRC engage in a dialogue with important contacts.

Delegates visit persons held in Guantanamo Bay to assess their treatment and living conditions and help them maintain contact with their families. After the visits, delegates provide the authorities with confidential feedback and recommendations.

The delegation is expanding its dialogue with the US authorities on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, for example through its dialogue with the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, and has provided IHL input into military doctrine.

Discussions with senior military personnel within the US play an important role in promoting respect for civilians in battle zones around the world and provide a useful preparation for encounters between the ICRC and US military units in Afghanistan and elsewhere. ICRC pre-deployment conferences help raise the US armed forces' awareness of the ICRC’s mandate and activities.

The delegation has established its position as a reference on IHL and humanitarian issues, and is regularly invited to take part in panels with government officials, other experts and the Organization of American States (OAS). In an effort to bring the reality of humanitarian challenges into the debate, the delegation has arranged for representatives of US political and military authorities to visit ICRC field operations, such as Georgia in 2010.

To support its networking, the delegation shares information on ICRC operations, plus IHL reference materials, with authorities and civil society.

Cooperation with the American and Canadian Red Cross Societies is another essential aspect of the ICRC’s presence. The ICRC supported the American Red Cross in the initial days of the Haiti earthquake response, in particular with expertise on restoring family links. The partnership with American Red Cross chapters and with universities has allowed the ICRC to raise its profile in IHL-related circles across the USA. The Red Cross Societies have successfully implemented the ICRC's “Exploring Humanitarian Law” programme for teaching IHL in schools, in both Canada and the United States.