ICRC headquarters, Geneva

13-06-2012 Overview

ICRC headquarters in Geneva supports the delegations that carry out our humanitarian work from around 80 delegations worldwide. Geneva also manages the ICRC's role of advocate and defender of international humanitarian law, dealing with governments and with partners in the humanitarian community. In addition, headquarters manages funding appeals, human resources and global communications. Since the closure of our mission in Turkey, HQ has also been handling all matters related to that country.

The ICRC is primarily an operational organization, with a strong basis in international humanitarian law. The structure and activities of its Geneva headquarters reflect this.

The supreme governing body of the ICRC is the Assembly, a co-opted body of up to 25 Swiss citizens that oversees all activities and defines general objectives and polices. It has a subsidiary body of five members that takes decisions on a more immediate basis. The ICRC’s president, currently Peter Maurer, chairs both.

The director-general and a team of directors run the day-to-day activities of the ICRC.

In line with its mandate under international humanitarian law, principally the Geneva Conventions, ICRC headquarters focuses on humanitarian operations in armed conflicts and other situations of violence.

During the past decade, Africa has been the most important area, as conflict continued to ravage the continent. But conflicts as widely spread as Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Balkans, Colombia, Sri Lanka and the Caucasus have meant that ICRC operations are truly global in nature.

The Operations Department deals with a diversity of operational conditions, responding as appropriate at international, regional or local level. It is responsible for analysing trends in armed conflict and ensuring the ICRC is capable of responding effectively. In recent decades, the Department has dealt with such issues as the prevalence of non-State armed groups in many conflicts, the impact of terrorism, technological developments and economic and environmental changes.

The proliferation of humanitarian organizations on all continents means that coordination at international level and on the ground has become increasingly important.

The ICRC’s role as an advocate of respect for IHL and a major contributor to its development is a natural parallel to its operational activities. The Department for International Law and Cooperation is responsible for this area, working with governments, national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and international organizations.

On a day-to-day basis, the ICRC supports IHL training, education and communication, working through the armed forces, educational establishments and the media. But it also sets out the rules of IHL in specific conflicts such as the Middle East and in more general situations such as anti-terrorism operations.

The ICRC has always played a role in the development of IHL. This area has seen a number of significant successes, of which perhaps the best-known was the creation of the Fourth Geneva Convention (on the protection of civilians) in 1949.

More recently, the ICRC has addressed issues related to modern conflict. The most successful activity in this field was the campaign to ban anti-personnel mines, which resulted in the Ottawa treaty. The ICRC has taken up other weapons issues, such as biological and chemical weapons, laser weapons and cluster bombs.

The promotion of IHL and the management of humanitarian aid to victims of conflict are backed up by a range of services, including communications, donor relations, National Society support and staff development and training.



ICRC headquarters
© ICRC / A. Philippon / v-p-bat-d-00049h

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