United Kingdom: new ICRC chief makes first London visit
ICRC president Peter Maurer has made his first official visit to the United Kingdom against the backdrop of conflict in Gaza, rising human suffering in Syria and heavy fighting around Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “The ICRC plays a vital role in protecting the vulnerable and assisting the weak in each of those crises,” explained Maurer.
Mr Maurer used his 20-21 November visit to emphasise the ICRC's distinctive approach to humanitarianism. During meetings with government ministers, in media appearances and during briefings to partners he explained that we focus on tackling the consequences of conflict and use our neutrality and independence to reach those who need help.
“The merits of independent humanitarian activity are questioned in some parts of the world, and support from the UK and other States for the ICRC and its approach is vital if we are to reach those who need our help,” said Mr Maurer. “Persuading countries that ICRC activities on their soil should be welcomed as purely humanitarian can be a challenge.”
All armed forces and armed groups needed repeated reminders to spare civilians and allow those needing medical treatment to receive it safely and quickly, Mr Maurer emphasised. “The ICRC, as the guardian of international humanitarian law, delivers that message in 'real-time,' when conflict is taking place in places like Gaza and Syria,” he explained.
The ICRC's top official pointed out how difficult it was for the sick and wounded to obtain medical treatment in Syria. “Medical facilities and personnel should not be attacked or intimidated and treatment should be accessible by all on the basis of need. That is the core message of our HealthCare in Danger Campaign,” he stressed.
After meeting Mr Maurer, who took up his role in July, British foreign secretary William Hague said the UK government was “proud to support the International Committee of the Red Cross” and its “essential humanitarian work.”
Mr Maurer also met representatives of the British Red Cross, the media and other humanitarian organizations which, like the ICRC, are working in the Sahel.