Russian Federation: ICRC director-general concludes high-level talks

03-11-2011 Interview

ICRC Director-General Yves Daccord has just completed an official visit to the Russian Federation. In this interview, he tells us about his first visit to Moscow and about the ICRC's work in the Northern Caucasus.

What were the objectives of your visit to Moscow?

There were two objectives. The first was to deepen our long-term relationship with the Russian Federation – a very important country. The ICRC attaches the utmost importance to its relations with Russia.

My second objective was to participate in a round table with the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, a key organization for us, which deals with the region's security. The round table offered an opportunity for the ICRC to discuss legal frameworks and international humanitarian law but also, very importantly, emergency-preparedness. During my stay, I had the opportunity to meet with CSTO Secretary-General Nicolay Bordyuzha to discuss issues of concern to both organizations.

Could you tell us more about this round table and about the results that the ICRC and the CSTO expect?

I must put the round table in the framework of the relationship between the ICRC and the CSTO, which started four years ago. It was a high-level event, and a very concrete and strategic step bringing together the seven countries of the CSTO and the ICRC. It offered an opportunity to discuss the humanitarian challenges of today and tomorrow, the legal frameworks that apply and the requirements for compliance with the frameworks in situations of conflict and violence.

It is important that the CSTO and the ICRC are able, together, to look at some of the issues and agree that crises, including humanitarian ones, are not made of one single element but are multi-dimensional and that different perspectives are needed.

You met with high-level representatives of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. What were the main topics of discussion? More generally, what type of cooperation with the Russian authorities is the ICRC looking for?

I had the opportunity to meet with Andrey Denisov, first vice-minister of foreign affairs.

The main topic of the discussions was the role and responsibility of the Russian Federation in different domains. Russia is a major power. It has the right of veto in the Security Council, which is an important responsibility. We wanted to share our views on the situation in places like Libya, Syria but also Afghanistan and Central Asia, with the Russian authorities and also to know their views. The world is changing very fast, and it is important for the ICRC to have a sense of the Russian authorities' point of view.

Another important issue has to do with Russia's responsibility to promote and implement international humanitarian law. It was also important to acknowledge the positive working relationship between the ICRC and the Russian authorities and to discuss some specific topics such as their support for ICRC activities in the region, in particular in the Northern Caucasus.

Finally, I talked with the Russian authorities about their support, both diplomatic and financial, for the ICRC's activities around the world.

What is your assessment of the situation in the Northern Caucasus? What activities is the ICRC carrying out there?

The ICRC has been working since 1992 throughout the Northern Caucasus, where it conducts important humanitarian activities. It therefore has a deep understanding of what is going on there. As we all know, the region has not been spared by violence. It has gone through very difficult times. Even now, if you look at Dagestan for example, there are a number of issues that are of concern to the ICRC. What I find important is that the ICRC maintains its presence there, close to the people, so that it can respond to their needs.

Past conflicts have long-lasting consequences for people in the Northern Caucasus. Even if the situation is improving, many people are still suffering. I am talking about the families of the missing, for example. Around 3,000 people have gone missing in the Northern Caucasus, and finding out what happened to them will require a lot of work. It is the responsibility of the authorities to see to it, so far as they are able, that the families know what happened to their missing relatives. We are also concerned about the situation of people displaced from other regions. They are in a difficult situation; we need to be able to help them.


Yves Daccord 

ICRC director-general Yves Daccord