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History of the ICRC: since 1945

Indochina War, 1946-1954. ICRC and French Red Cross delegates speak with Vietnamese prisoners as they make their way to work at a «Seminary Camp» in Hanoi.

At the end of the Second World War, the ICRC finds itself in an ambivalent position. Its humanitarian work during the conflict – in particular in aid of prisoners of war – has been widely commended. However, some countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, are criticizing the organization for not doing enough for the millions of Holocaust victims. Conversely, it was also criticized for dedicating too much time to helping civilians in the defeated countries after the war, particularly in Germany. View full overview

Key topics

  • Development of modern international humanitarian law

    Efforts to regulate warfare have existed to a greater or lesser extent throughout history. But these remained temporary, local arrangements, until the middle of the 19th century when the newly-created ICRC encouraged the adoption of the first Geneva Convention.

  • Civilians being evacuated from combat zones in South Lebanon in 1978. The ICRC since 1970: proliferating needs, activities and risks

    To meet new challenges and constantly growing needs, the ICRC became a "large" humanitarian organization with a permanent presence on every continent. It had to learn how to deal with serious security risks and the danger of humanitarian activities becoming increasingly politicized.

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