The ICRC’s external communication doctrine

01 May 2016

External communication – the exchange of information and public messages with a variety of external audiences – is an integral part of the ICRC's operations and positioning work. It ensures that the ICRC is heard in an environment in which a large number of voices are competing for attention.

Raising the public profile of the ICRC – and more generally that of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – and managing our reputation, helps us mobilize political and public support for our activities, influences attitudes and behaviour, builds and deepens trust, and secures human and financial resources.

External communication can strengthen the ICRC and the Movement's acceptance and security, and facilitate access to people in need. Ultimately, external communication helps to boost respect for people suffering as a result of armed conflict and other situations of violence.

The ICRC's external communication doctrine, revised and adopted in 2015, is based on the following eight guiding principles:

1. Build trust in the ICRC to facilitate its humanitarian action

Communicate the ICRC's core identity consistently and coherently in order to enhance the global reputation of the ICRC, at all times reflecting the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement's Fundamental Principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. Our communications are ultimately determined by what is in the best interests of the victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence.

2. Enhance the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement's public profile

Wherever appropriate, position the ICRC as part of the Movement on joint operations, activities and themes, and ensure that our communications are consistent with and complementary to those of our Movement partners. Ensure that the ICRC contributes to the management of the Movement's overall reputation, especially when integrity issues arise. In areas where we have a unique mandate, emphasize the specificity of the ICRC within the Movement.

3. Communicate to influence behaviour and policies

Use communication as part of the ICRC's efforts to help inform and shape attitudes, behaviour and policies (in relation to operations and global issues), and complement bilateral and multilateral dialogue.

4. Empower people through information

Engage with communities about aid services and basic rights and entitlements, thereby boosting their resilience by making them more knowledgeable and connected. Provide information that is of direct use to people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence, so they can play an active role in their own preparedness, relief and recovery. Ensure two-way communication to help manage expectations and increase accountability.

5. Focus on people and the laws that protect them

Focus communications on those affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence, and the humanitarian problems they are facing, by emphasizing the obligations of the authorities and warring parties, under international humanitarian law and other relevant legal frameworks, to keep people from harm. In exceptional circumstances, and in accordance with ICRC doctrine, resort to public denunciation of violations of the law.

6. Broaden the ICRC's public support base

Secure the widest possible support for the ICRC's work and positions in operational contexts and in countries with global or regional influence. As well as targeting those who have direct or indirect influence on the fate of people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence, build public support for the ICRC's action and positions among civil society, the private sector and the general public.

7. Incorporate communication in all ICRC strategies

As an integral part of the ICRC's operations and positioning work, ensure that external communications support our four overlapping approaches of prevention, protection, assistance and cooperation.

8. Communicate for impact and ethically

ICRC communications are timely, proactive and predictable and use compelling figures and specific examples for impact. They are contextualized and adapted to the expectations, sensitivities and interests of our audiences. Our communications are truthful, accurate and respectful and help to preserve the dignity of communities affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence.

The ICRC's external communication doctrine