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The Missing - Current developments


Current developments of the project as at October 2002.


Executive summary 

Uncertainty as to the fate of relatives is a harsh reality for countless families in all situations of armed conflict or internal violence, one that often continues for many years. Not only is this deeply distressing for the families, it can also hamper efforts aimed at achieving reconciliation and an enduring peace by contributing to further outbreaks of violence. In its Headquarters Appeal 2002 (pp. 44-45), the ICRC presented a new initiative:

 The Missing:  

Action to resolve the problem of people unaccounted for as a result of armed conflict or internal violence and to assist their families.

The project has two general objectives, one internal, the other external. On the internal level, the means and methods utilised by the ICRC in dealing with the problematic of missing persons will be examined and an attempt will be made to find solutions that lead to more efficient action. Externally, the ICRC's objective in launching this process, in cooperation with all those involved in dealing with the issue, is to:

a) review all methods that could be employed to prevent disappearances in situations of armed conflict or internal violence more effectively, and respond to the needs of families that have lost contact with their loved ones;

b) agree on common and complementary recommendations and operational practices with all those working to prevent disappearances, and respond appropriately whe n people are unaccounted for in a situation of armed conflict or internal violence;

c) position this concern higher on the agendas of government authorities, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.

The ICRC is pleased to note that its initiative has generated considerable interest among experts worldwide:

  • the electronic workshops have allowed essential preparatory debate among specialists who contributed substantial papers to the issue, and laid the groundwork for a number of physical workshops held at Ecogia, the ICRC’s Training Centre, near Geneva;

  • the six physical workhops have taken place, were attended by a broad spectrum of experts, and generated conclusions and recommendations that will be presented at the Conference in 2003;

  • for two of the three commissioned studies, the reports and their recommendations will be taken into account in the report prepared for the Conference; the third study is expected to submit a report by mid December 2002.

The themes, conclusions and recommendations of these various fora will be presented at the international conference of governmental and non-governmental experts to be held in Geneva at the Centre de Conférence international de Genève (CCIG) on 19 - 21 February 2003. Preparations for this conference are ongoing.

The ICRC is preparing a synthesis report of the conclusions and recommendations generated by the preliminary workshops and studies. On the basis of this report a project declaration will be drawn which is to be presented at the conference for adoption. The ICRC hopes that the conference results will be directly useful to:

  • individuals and organizations working in the political, humanitarian and human rights fields and active on the ground in situations of armed conflict or internal violence, and

  • governments involved in developing international law and preventing or resolving conflicts, especially within the framework of the United Nations, for example through its Human Rights Commission, or within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, for example.

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