Is neutrality still relevant? This comic dives into real world impact of this principle
An exciting new comic by Sydney artist, Claudia Chinyere Akole, tells the story of how neutral, impartial, and independent humanitarian action reunites families.
The ICRC acts as a neutral intermediary around the world - transporting detainees home, crossing frontlines and talking to all sides of a conflict. While 'neutral intermediary' may be a mouthful, to those in conflict it can mean valuable access to those they themselves can't reach.
About the artist
Claudia Chinyere Akole is an exhibiting artist, illustrator, cartoonist, designer, animator, and educator based in Sydney, Australia (Gadigal and Wangal land). She works as a graphic designer in TV broadcast, as a freelance illustrator, and creates comics and illustrations in her personal practice.
Reuniting with loved ones is one of the best feelings in the world. Families dream of that first hug. I've been lucky to see that moment time and time again.
But it's not always easy getting there.
Picture shows two women hugging and smiling, someone working from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is smiling in the background.
Conflict separates thousands of families every year and it can be hard for them to find their way back to each other. This can happen for many reasons – being detained in a foreign country is one of them.
Last year I escorted River out of prison and onto a plane home to reunite with family after years of being apart.
Picture shows two people sitting next to each other facing away from the viewer. One has an ICRC bib on and is labelled Arden. The other is labelled River.
Visiting detainees in places where there's conflict is what I do.
Speech bubble 1 - I work for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a neutral, independent, impartial humanitarian organisation.
Speech bubble 2 - I'm a bridge between detainees and their families. I connect them to the world beyond the walls.
Speech bubble 3 - I was a bridge for River.
Picture shows Arden with their arms spread to look like a bridge, there's people on either side of their arms speaking and waving to each other.
In war, there's no trust. And without trust, even releasing detainees can be complicated.
It's rarely just a case of holding the prison door open while someone walks out.
Picture shows a pink cloud on a red background.
This sounds like a riddle but bear with me... Country A is part of a conflict in Country B, and they detain people in Country B. Country A wants to release a citizen of Country C to their home country, but Country A and Country C have no relationship. How does the detainee arrive safely at country C?
In this situation, River was like the citizen of country C.
Picture shows four panels. Panel 1 has a diagram of countries A and B, with a box labelled 'A' in Country B to symbolise a prison, and an arrow from Country A to B.
Panel 2 has the same image, with a third country, Country C, added, and arrows from Country B to C.
Panel 3 shows Countries A and C, with an 'X' between them to show no relations.
Panel 4 shows a citizen of Country C, in Country A prison box, in Country B. An arrow points that citizen towards their country, Country C.
I step in after authorities have agreed to release someone - I make sure people are healthy enough to travel and that they get home safely.
Speech bubble 1 - Hi, I'm Arden from the ICRC.
Speech bubble 2 - Hi, I'm River.
I met River in prison, where we discussed their situation, conditions in prison and the legal process. Finally, one warm morning, the time had come to go home.
Picture shows two people shaking hands, they are Arden and River.
That morning, I went to meet River at prison. I assured the detaining authority that River would be leaving.
Then we made our way to the airport.
Speech bubble 1 – Are you ready to travel? Do you want to return home?
Speech bubble 2 – Here's a few things to help with the journey.
Picture shows two panels. In the first Arden is walking into a room where River is. In the second there's an ICRC car driving down a road.
When we arrived at the airport, we were questioned by security services late into the night.
Speech bubble 1 (Arden speaking) - I work for the ICRC. We've been asked to help River return home safely.
Picture shows River and Arden being questioned by 2 security personnel in a room.
The next morning, we were allowed to enter River's country. It was an emotional journey; River knew family was waiting.
Picture shows two panels. The first is of a plane taking off. The second shows River looking out the plane window.
And when we arrived, we saw how vital this simple humanitarian action was.
Everyone deserves to be with loved ones.
Picture shows two people hugging. One holds an ICRC bag of supplies. Arden is standing behind them smiling.
Being this bridge, a neutral go-between for countries or groups in conflict, helping people affected by conflict, is the heart of what I do.
Speech bubble 1 – Imagine being in a war zone and saying you're neutral.
Speech bubble 2 – Imagine entering a debate and saying you're neutral.
Pictures show two panels. In the first Arden is walking through a city where there's conflict, such as smoke and explosions, around them. In the second Arden is shown with two people speaking angrily at them.
Being neutral means I can be trusted by all sides of conflict - I can talk to detainees, I can pass messages to their families, I can accompany them on their journeys home, I can cross frontlines.
Picture shows Arden speaking to people in several situations – walking side by side, to a child and parent, to someone alone.
A trusted go-between can support all sides of conflict to achieve common goals.
The ICRC's role as a neutral intermediary means we are able to help countless people impacted by armed conflict and violence.
Picture shows Arden helping a person with a walking stick walk up steps. Both are wearing masks.