Geneva: Funding: The lifeline of humanitarian work
18-12-1997 News Release 97/50
At a press conference held on 16 December, ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga outlined the organization's financial situation to the international community (represented by members of the permanent missions in Geneva) and to the media. For the second year running, the ICRC's operational costs are expected to exceed the amount of the donations received: in order to cover the budget of 696.99 million Swiss francs, an additional 58.11 million francs must be raised by the end of 1997. The President described this shortfall as a " matter of extreme concern " , especially since a considerable sum already pledged by donors (116.27 million francs) had not yet been received.
Operational expenditure for 1998 is expected to drop slightly (to 675.25 million francs) as compared with this year. The greater part of the budget (47%, up 7% from 1997) is to go to Africa, where the ICRC's humanitarian activities will focus on Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Great Lakes region (in particular, assistance to some 130,000 detainees in Rwanda) and Somalia, a country that has been devastated both by war and by natural disasters.
The second largest sum will be spent in Asia (19%, i.e. 6% less than in 1997). At present, the most extensive operation is taking place in Afghanistan, where, on both sides of the front lines, the ICRC is assisting landmine victims and the most vulnerable groups, responding to medical needs and endeavouring to deal with problems arising from the unequal treatment of men and women. Another major priority for the ICRC is its work in Sri Lanka and in Irian Jaya, which has been extremely hard hit by conflict, drought, hunger and malaria, among other things. ICRC activities in the Cau casus and Tajikistan will account for 11% of the budget (down 25% as compared with 1997) and those in Western Europe and the Balkans will make up 10 % of the budget (a decrease of about 2.5%).
The ICRC's work in the Middle East, in particular in northern Iraq, Israel and the occupied and the autonomous territories, will account for 7% of its total budget (7.4% more than in 1997). Expenditure in the Americas, in particular in Colombia, will amount to only 6% of the budget (nevertheless an increase of 16% over 1997).
Generally speaking, most of the budget will cover activities that undoubtedly can only be carried out by the ICRC: its " protection " work, which principally involves visiting hundreds of places of detention throughout the world (accounting for 28% of expenditure, up 17% from 1997). The second largest sum of money will go to assistance operations (27% of the budget, an increase of 3%) and health-related work (14%, up by 1.5%). Less " visible " activities will account for just under 6% of the budget, an increase of 10% over 1997; these have become increasingly vital as a result of the worsening security situation arising mainly from the lack of dialogue and from misunderstanding between ICRC delegates and the parties to certain conflicts.
The ICRC has been able to meet its stated aim of keeping administrative costs down: its headquarters budget for 1998 (separate from its operational budget) stands at 143.3 million francs, only 0.6% higher than in 1997, an increase that is well below the annual rate of inflation in Switzerland.