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Future of the ICRC: plan of action



At its meeting on 29 and 30 April 1998, the Assembly endorsed the plan of action of the Avenir project which had been submitted to it and approved the some 130 accompanying implementation measures. A timetable for launching the Avenir plan of action has also been finalized. The first measures will come into effect as from 1 May 1998, and by 1 September 1998 at latest the new decision-making structures will be in place. This timetable forms part of the overall schedule for the plan of action, which extends into the first quarter of the year 2001.

The plan of action stems from the conclusions of the Avenir project, which were adopted by the Assembly on 12 December 1997. It was drawn up by the Avenir project Implementation Committee, which is chaired by Mr Ernst A. Brugger, a member of the Assembly.

The drafting of this plan of action involved some 50 ICRC staff divided into 12 working groups corresponding to the 12 strategic decisions adopted by the Assembly. Thanks to this concerted effort, the Avenir project Implementation Committee was able to propose to the Assembly the measures to be taken, the means to be deployed and the structural changes resulting from each strategic decision.

The content of the plan of action is organized according to the four main strategies of the Avenir project:

a) bringing humanitarian action close to the victims, looking to the long term and establishing priorities;

b) strengthening dialogue with all players;

c) restoring independent humanitarian action, knowledge of and respect for humanitarian law and principles to their proper status;

d) increasing the ICRC's efficiency.



(a) Bringing humanitarian action close to the victims, looking to the long term and establishing priorities

Eighteen of the implementation measures concern the strengthening of the ICRC's presence at the level of the victims and enhancing the security of ICRC and National Society staff. These measures favour a more systematic analysis of situations, taking into account the successive phases of the continuum and the needs of the victims, and a more consistent approach between the different operational contexts. For instance, criteria for the launching and suspension of ICRC action are defined for different types of situation. Other measures are aimed at making ICRC delegations more sensitive to the local context of a given conflict.

(b) Strengthening dialogue with all playe rs

The ability to maintain a dialogue with all the players concerned is at the heart of the 20 measures under this heading. It is therefore crucial that the ICRC take a more active part in the most important humanitarian fora. The ICRC will seek not only to share its experience and views, but also to coordinate its action with that of other relevant humanitarian agencies, even launching joint appeals should the circumstances require. Among the other measures relating to this strategy are some aimed at establishing a combined communication and dissemination unit.

(c) Restoring independent humanitarian action, knowledge of and respect for humanitarian law and principles to their proper status

This involves asserting the ICRC's role as a universal reference point for issues connected with international humanitarian law, and stressing the importance of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as an independent humanitarian force. The plan of action proposes 38 measures in this regard, aimed at establishing closer complementarity between international humanitarian law and human rights law, promoting and developing international humanitarian law, spreading knowledge of and enhancing respect for humanitarian law among the new perpetrators of armed violence, and strengthening the partnership between the ICRC, the National Societies and the International Federation. These purposes will be served, for example, by supporting the establishment of an effective international criminal court, updating the commentaries on international humanitarian law, setting up a comprehensive and coherent strategy of cooperation with the National Societies and the International Federation, and implementing the Seville Agreement.

(d) Increasing the ICRC's efficiency

Increasing the organization's efficiency is a key feature of the Avenir plan of action. It concerns a whole range of matters such as human resources policy, diversifying the organization's sources of funding and improving internal communication. The 53 measures relating to this subject are intended to simplify internal administrative procedures and to improve supervision of the way resources are used. The measures include the concentration at headquarters of expertise in devising strategies and in evaluation, increasing the delegations'autonomy of action, an active policy to promote women to senior positions, and the introduction of a system of training for the ICRC and the Movement. In the area of finance, one of the measures planned for the coming years is the extension of the donor base to additional governments and private sources of funding.




(a) Structure

The structural reform that has been adopted is intended to strengthen internal cohesion and ensure the best possible use of the ICRC's resources. It clarifies the responsibilities of each of the institution's decision-making structures.

Accordingly, it is the Assembly that defines the ICRC's general objectives and strategies. It delegates certain of its responsibilities to the Assembly Council, which serves as a link between the Assembly and the Directorate. The Assembly Council replaces the Executive Board. As for the Directorate, it is responsible for the smooth running of the ICRC and the efficiency o f its work. The Directorate henceforth comprises four members: a Director-General, a Director of Operations, a Director for International Law and Policy and a Director of Resources. The Director-General presides over the Directorate, coordinates its agenda and sees to the follow-up of its decisions.

The features of the Presidency remain unchanged. It continues to be the embodiment of the ICRC in its relations with the outside and ensures cohesion and consistency within the institution.

(b) Investment

The Avenir plan of action will bring major changes to the ICRC, affecting its structures, its working methods and the responsibilities of its staff. These changes will entail additional investment and costs, mainly in the areas of training, security, the acquisition and installation of new management tools, humanitarian diplomacy, the development of international humanitarian law, and cooperation with the various components of the Movement.

According to the initial estimates of the Avenir project Implementation Committee, the investment required, taking into account the savings resulting from the plan of action, will be in the order of 7,800,000 Swiss francs up to the end of 1999. Of this amount, 75% will be allocated to the field. No extension of the headquarters budget for 1998 will be necessary. A detailed financial plan will be drawn up by the Directorate.

This investment will increase the ICRC's implementation capacity and hence improve the response to victims'needs. It will also allow the introduction of more consistent and efficient procedures for the management of the ICRC's resources . Consequently, savings in the headquarters budget are anticipated as from 1999.

(c) Follow-up

The Avenir plan of action will be distributed to senior ICRC staff (both field and headquarters) in mid-May. Information sessions will be organized for staff and given by heads of unit at headquarters and heads of delegation in the field.

The next états-majors of the three Directorates will be entirely devoted to the plan of action. One day will be set aside for discussion on the plan of action during the meeting of heads of delegation to be held from 14 to 18 June 1998.



We feel that the courage and innovative spirit shown by the many staff members who took part in one stage or other of the Avenir exercise bode well for the future, and should favour the emergence of a strong, dynamic ICRC that is in phase with its environment and capable of fulfilling in the most efficient way possible its mission, which is to    "protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to forestall the suffering engendered by such situations by taking direct action on the level of the victims, by assuming its role as a neutral and independent institution and intermediary, and by influencing the behaviour of all actual and potential perpetrators of such violence through dialogue, the establishment of standards of conduct and the dissemination of humanitarian law and of the principles of the Movement .

That mission can be accomplished only with the full commitment of every ICRC staff member. The Avenir plan of action thus aims, through the clarification of roles and responsibilities that it proposes and the quality and efficiency that it advocates, to maximize the impact of this personal commitment both within the ICRC and at the side of the victims.

 Ref. LG 1998-036-ENG