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International Committee of the Red Cross: prevention policy

30-06-2009 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 874

Adopted by the Assembly of the ICRC on 18 September 2008



Together with protection, assistance and cooperation, prevention is a central component of the ICRC’s work. It constitutes one of the four approaches that the ICRC has devised for reaching its overall and fundamental goal of ensuring respect for the lives, dignity and physical and mental well-being of persons affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence.

In line with its mission statement, the ICRC endeavours to prevent suffering, in particular by “promoting and strengthening international humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles”. This is also a key element of the mandate confirmed and conferred upon the ICRC by States and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The Statutes of the Movement specifically entrust the ICRC with the responsibility to work for the faithful application of international humanitarian law, for its understanding, dissemination and development, as well as for maintaining and disseminating the Fundamental Principles. This work has been undertaken by the ICRC since its inception.

Given the complex environment in which the ICRC operates, as well as the growth, diversification and specialization of the organization, it is necessary to adopt a policy for prevention, including a common understanding of what it encompasses, which principles should guide it and how it should be implemented. Such a policy will enhance the understanding and effectiveness of the ICRC’s prevention approach and activities. More generally, it contributes to the ICRC’s ambitions to remain the standard-set ting organization in the field of international humanitarian law, to continue to promote its identity as an exclusively humanitarian, impartial, neutral and independent organization and to remain a reliable, predictable and coherent institution whose work is underpinned by a strong culture of accountability and focused on the results and impact of its work.

This policy document is organized as follows:

  • Section I defines the notion of prevention as understood within the ICRC;

  • Section II explains how the ICRC seeks to foster an environment that is conducive to respect for life and dignity and for the ICRC’s work;

  • Section III outlines the guiding principles that enable the ICRC to ensure the relevance, efficiency and impact of its prevention approach;

  • Section IV lists the criteria that have to be assessed when deciding whether to engage in prevention activities;

  • and Section V outlines different considerations for developing strategies for prevention activities.

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