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Overview of the ICRC's operations in 2008


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Press Release ICRC appeals for record amount for humanitarian work in 2008  

Key data for ICRC Emergency and Headquarters Appeals 2008.    

The ICRC is pleased to present its main operational trends and priorities for 2008. This document gives a detailed analysis of the situations encountered by some 80 field delegations and missions around the world and outlines the corresponding ICRC objectives and budgetary requirements. It sets out the organization’s carefully considered plan of action to respond in a targeted manner to the needs of people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence, as identified at the time of writing in late October 2007.

  The following is an extract from the introduction by Pierre Krähenbühl, Director of Operations.  
Developments in conflict trends and environments 

Analysis of the dynamics of armed conflicts around the world is as delicate an undertaking as ever. Experience shows that the roots of most present-day armed conflicts lie in a combination of factors at the local or national level. In the past, they would have mostly pitted two or more rulers, be it of chiefdoms or countries, against one another with the aim of gaining influence or territorial control. S uch conflicts involved conventional, established and structured armed forces, which clashed on designated battlefields, with front lines that could be marked on equally conventional maps. These armed confrontations sought to obtain by force what the warring parties could not achieve through dialogue, negotiation, cajolery or threat alone.

As we head further into the 21st century, patterns of warfare are evolving. Fewer wars are being fought for outright control of territory, although there are, of course, some that have a strong territorial dimension or undercurrent, such as the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. And fewer wars are being fought for deep-seated ideological reasons,as they were during the Cold War.

Nowadays, conflicts appear to be more often fuelled by pressure to secure immediate and long-term access to or control over key natural resources. Economic factors therefore play a significant role, with armed elements indulging in economic predation. Many countries, meanwhile, continue to suffer from inherently weak or collapsed public services, such as health, water and social welfare.

Such developments have been complicated by a number of other factors: the assertion of identity; weapon proliferation, environmental degradation and scarcity of land and water; mass migration leading to an increase in new forms of urban violence; and in several contexts, the blurring of the line between political violence and criminality.

Another feature of current conflict environments is the variety of forms of confrontation involving the interplay of local, regional and global dynamics. In 2007, there remained few wars between States but a growing number of highly complex non-international armed conflicts involving a plethora of actors with a variety of grievances and acquiring, at times, an international dimension.

There has been a marked rise in influence of non-State actors, specifically those engaging in armed violence. Such groups are often unstable and have a tendency to fragment into different sub-factions, which regroup under new commands. In 2007, as in recent years, several armed groups were engaged in a confrontation on a global scale with a number of States. This manifested itself in several countries mainly in acts of “terrorism”, on the one hand, and counter-“terrorism” operations, on the other hand.

Situations of armed conflict, are frequently characterized by their extended duration, chronic nature, generally low intensity and widespread impact. Whether it be an armed conflict or situation of violence, the outcome is inevitably large numbers of people killed, injured, detained, separated from their families or missing. Moreover, many people are also affected indirectly, such as the sick who are unable to access medical care because of the fighting

or insecurity.

The ICRC believes that there are two key challenges in responding to today’s armed conflicts and other situations of violence: one is to have a clear understanding of the diversity of armed conflicts and other situations of violence and the specificity of each; and the other is to address in a meaningful way the multitude of needs faced by the affected populations.

According to the ICRC's analysis, there is a trend whereby civilians are being specifically targeted and the number of indirect victims is growing. Threats to civilians’ security often arise from a lack of respect by the warring parties for the relevant norms and rules of international law, notably IHL.

Developments in 2007 have confirmed that it is the interaction of many of these factors that makes the understanding of and response to such situations highly complex.


Implications for current ICRC operations 

The year 2007 was a significant one for the ICRC in operational terms. The organization started out with an overall field budget of CHF 843.3 million and in the course of the year issued nine individual budget extensions amounting to an additional CHF 122.4 million.

Throughout the year, the ICRC combined its commitment to alleviate human suffering resulting from longstanding, often neglected, crises in countries such as the Central African Republic, Colombia, Haiti, the Philippines, Somalia and Yemen with responses in higher-profile conflicts such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and the occupied territories and the autonomous territories, Sri Lanka and Sudan. The ICRC’s role of neutral intermediary was also reaffirmed in several contexts, and the organization gained broad recognition of its independent and impartial approach.

Four years ago, at the end of 2003, a particularly testing year for the ICRC, there was much debate and justified soul-searching within the organization and in the humanitarian community at large. “Is there a future for neutral and independent humanitarian action?” was one of the questions being asked. Assertions that “there is no neutral ground in today's polarized world” and “the Geneva Conventions are outdated” became part of the conventional wisdom of the day.

At the time, deeply affected by the targeted killing of several of its national and expatriate staff in Afghanistan and Iraq, the ICRC made some important decisions that remain highly relevant today. The first was to reassert that its operational approach was indeed based on being in close proximity to those in need and on broad acceptance of the organization by all parties to a conflict. The second was to maintain its decentralized approach to security management. The third was to adopt a more structured and global approach to building r elationships within the Muslim world, with representatives of private or public academic institutions, political movements and armed actors, given that, in an increasingly polarized world, the ICRC needs and wants to engage with all stakeholders able to facilitate its mission.

Underpinning these strategies was the determination to demonstrate, through a firm operational commitment and concrete deeds, the added-value of the ICRC’s neutral and independent humanitarian action. This involved remaining, to the extent possible, in often dangerous and unpredictable contexts and striving to preserve or regain the acceptance of a variety of stakeholders. It also entailed demonstrating an enhanced rapid-response capacity and an ability to sustain over time large-scale operations in increasingly chronic crises. Moreover, the ICRC continued to foster relations with a range of key State actors, keeping in mind the gradual rebalancing of the world’s centres of power and influence, regionally and globally.

Key challenges for the ICRC in 2008 

 Developing a universal and professional humanitarian response to needs arising from  

 armed conflict and other situations of violence  

It is as crucial as ever for the ICRC to respond to the needs arising from the full spectrum of armed conflicts around the world. At the same time, it is essential in terms of the organization’s overall operational identity that it work primarily in active conflict zones, where its role and action are indispensable. This requires a capacity to act rapidly and effectively in acute crises or in the event of an increase in needs. The ICRC is convinced that it can offer specific exp ertise and added-value, which are based on an effective early warning system and a capacity to plan for contingencies, to respond rapidly to needs and to adapt operations quickly on the basis of lessons learned.

Equally important is its ability to sustain a longer-term commitment in chronic crises, in the early stages of a transition to peace or in situations of violence that attract little or no outside attention, and to spot new forms of armed confrontation and assess their implications for the future conduct of ICRC operations.

A professional humanitarian response comprises a number of elements. First of all, it implies concern for people and their individual dignity, and sensitivity in addressing their needs. Working in close proximity to men, women and children who have been at the receiving end of arbitrary violence and endured great suffering requires paying attention to the quality, timeliness and effectiveness of the response. It also entails a determination to seek dialogue and interaction with the full range of stakeholders in a conflict zone.

A professional approach calls for qualified staff – national and international, specialist and generalist – who are familiar with and understand the different contexts in which they work. They require special qualities: sensitivity, curiosity, the ability to listen, and a desire to find solutions to even the most intractable problems in highly complex environments.

It is also necessary to invest in and develop the ICRC’s capacities in particular fields of expertise in order to ensure that the organization will remain relevant in the future. In 2008, the ICRC will continue to reinforce its protection activities through the careful selection and definition of protection strategies and responses. These efforts will, as in past years, focus in particular on activities for people deprived of their freedom, protecting civilians, resto ring family links and clarifying the fate of missing persons. The ICRC will further pursue its objective of strengthening its competencies in the medical sphere, notably in basic health care, hospital management and meeting health needs in detention.

Lastly, a professional humanitarian response involves being able to combine various elements of humanitarian action, for example protection and assistance or protection and prevention, and to stay true to the ICRC's all-victims approach, while ensuring a multifaceted response to specific needs, such as those of women and girls or IDPs. The ICRC considers that the wide range of services it is now able to deploy is an essential element of its addedvalue, which enables it to provide a comprehensive response to the varied needs of populations affected by increasingly complex crisis situations.

 Focusing on operational and security management  

The ICRC's operational philosophy of working in the closest possible proximity to those it seeks to protect and assist requires developing and maintaining a broad network of staff in the different contexts in which it operates and is based on the concept of highly decentralized security management. It also demands a common understanding of the risks involved in the current environments, which are diverse and often unpredictable.

The way the ICRC is perceived and the extent to which it is accepted by all the stakeholders in a given context must be constantly monitored. Nowadays, the perception of the ICRC in one context may very rapidly have an impact on perceptions – and thus security – elsewhere in the world. The ability to manage these different layers of perception must be further developed.

As already noted, ensuring an accurate perception of the ICRC involves building predictable relations with a range of Stat e actors and approaching a host of other actors, from political to criminal, often with clear chains of command initially, which later break up into multiple subgroups or clans with shifting agendas and alliances. In sum, it is necessary to deal with the whole spectrum of actors, from powerful conventional armies, to radical armed groups and urban gangs, and the ability to do so, adapting the methods to each one, is an essential feature of the ICRC's operational approach.

The threat of mines and explosive remnants of war remains a major problem in several contexts both for the populations in the affected areas and for humanitarian workers, calling for constant vigilance. Furthermore, in many contexts, increased levels of crime are hampering humanitarian efforts.


 Safeguarding the essence of neutral and independent humanitarian action  

The year 2007 saw further developments within the broader humanitarian sector. These included the ongoing UN humanitarian reform process, involving Inter-Agency Standing Committee country teams, the Central Emergency Response Fund, the Common Humanitarian Fund and the cluster system. Integrated crisis-management responses, combining political, military, social and humanitarian objectives and activities, are a feature of many of today’s contexts. Such responses take the form of integrated – or multidisciplinary – UN missions or State-run stabilization or enforcement campaigns.

Although it coordinates proactively with all the humanitarian actors concerned, the ICRC is adamant that it will not be part of such integrated approaches. The reason is that doing so would be at odds with the ICRC’s strict working principles and criteria that require it to seek dialogue with and obtain the acceptance of all actors involved in or capa ble of influencing a given conflict, however sensitive an undertaking that may appear.

While other actors have multiple mandates and diverse agendas, which may include political and constitutional reform or economic and societal transformation, the ICRC works with the actors and realities on the ground. It insists on talking to all involved, with the aim of reaching and improving the lives of people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence.

To do so, it must be – and be seen to be – neutral and independent. Neutrality must be understood here as a deliberate decision not to take sides in a conflict and to keep its action distinct from the political or military agenda of any one actor. The ICRC equally attaches great importance to bilateral and confidential dialogue when conducting its operations.

The ICRC does not claim that there is only one definition of humanitarian action: complementarity is important. Nevertheless, it wants its own action to be clearly understood as separate, and recognized for its distinct addedvalue in all situations of armed conflict, whether acute, chronic or transitional.

 Improving partnerships and coordination  


The ICRC will pursue its efforts to coordinate with other humanitarian agencies in a reality-based and actionoriented manner.

Staff in the field and at headquarters spend significant amounts of time in consultation and coordination with organizations operating in the same contexts and sharing similar objectives as the ICRC. The organization will continue to engage in operational and institutional partnerships with other components of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – National Societies and the International Federation – and with individu al UN agencies and NGOs.

A major goal of the ICRC is to work more closely with National Societies operating in their own country. National Societies are seeking a more assertive role in the response to needs in their country. They are also seeking greater recognition from the ICRC of their contribution and capacities. In 2008, the ICRC will continue to seek to strengthen partnerships with National Societies in a range of contexts – such as Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, to name but a few – where cooperation has become crucial for addressing needs effectively. This approach reflects the joint commitment of the International Federation and the ICRC to invest in and demonstrate the added-value of the Movement within the broader humanitarian community.

Investing in an evolving culture of management In addition to testing new approaches with a view to ensuring the future relevance of its responses, the ICRC will continue to draw and act on the lessons learned from reviews and evaluations of its operations and capabilities.


Notable features and operational priorities in 2008 

The ICRC’s core focus will again be to act in closest proximity to people affected by armed conflicts and other situations of violence and, to the best of its ability, to provide a meaningful humanitarian response to their needs. The ICRC will endeavour to act rapidly and efficiently, taking into account the diverse nature of the situations and needs with which it is confronted.

The present document brings to your attention an initial appeal for CHF 932.6 million to cover ICRC field activities in 2008.

The ICRC's 2008 budget reflects the organization's current level of operational engagement throughout the world. The budget is CHF 89 million higher than the initial 2007 budget and as such is the largest ever initial ICRC field budget.

The implications of the nine budget extensions that were issued during 2007 must be taken into account. When there is a budget extension in response to a natural disaster or for a context that sees a sudden increase followed by a just as sudden reduction in intensity, as in Lebanon between 2006 and 2007, it has little knock-on effect on the budget of the following year. If, however, the additional resources mobilized by the ICRC pertain to already very unstable armed conflicts, as was the case in 2007, then there are often implications for the following year’s budget. For example in Sudan, when in early 2007 it decided to reassume responsibility for running all services in the Gereida IDP camp in Darfur, the ICRC had to mobilize an additional CHF 32 million over and above the initial budget for the operation of CHF 73 million. The ICRC plans to continue to run the camp for the first six months of 2008 before, it is hoped, handing over responsibility to other agencies. The initial 2008 budget for Sudan is therefore higher than the initial budget in 2007.

Another noteworthy element is that the ICRC’s operation in Iraq has the largest individual budget for 2008. It is twice the initial 2007 budget, reflecting the organization’s renewed commitment to meeting some of the extreme needs in the context, in partnership with Iraqi institutions,. The budget increase reflects the ICRC’s intention to respond to acute medical needs and the needs of IDPs in general.

The ICRC will maintain or reinforce its operations in several complex environments, including Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Somalia.

Two contexts saw setbacks for the ICRC in 200 7. In Ethiopia and Myanmar, the operational capacity of the ICRC was severely restricted by decisions of the respective governments. The ICRC will remain present in both contexts and seek to rebuild a relationship of onfidence with the authorities and to overcome problems of perception of the organization and related operational limitations.

The ten largest operations worldwide will be: Iraq (CHF 107.3 million), Sudan (CHF 106.4 million), Israel, the Occupied and Autonomous Territories (CHF 68.2 million), Afghanistan (CHF 60.3 million), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (CHF 37.1 million), Colombia (CHF 34.2 million), Somalia (CHF 30.2 million), Chad (CHF 27.9 million), Sri Lanka (CHF 26.7 million) and Uganda (CHF 23.2 million).


Operating in such diverse and demanding conflict environments is challenging in many ways. It requires: an ability to analyse and anticipate trends, while being ready to adapt to changes as they occur throughout the year; being ready to take risks to reach affected populations, in terms of individual and collective decisions that have a meaningful humanitarian impact; competence, creativity and determination on the part of ICRC staff in the field; and acceptance and understanding on the part of a wide array of stakeholders. It also requires the essential support of donors, National Societies, civil society and private companies.

The ICRC is immensely grateful for donors’ support and confidence in a year that saw several new emergencies in addition to the ongoing conflicts that required attention. Their generosity and trust were instrumental in enabling the ICRC to carry out its mission. In return, the ICRC has further strengthened its reporting and evaluation capacities in order to ensure optimum transparency regarding how it makes its decisions and uses donor funds.

Despite the often daunting constraints it faces, the ICRC remains driven by a steadfast determination to make a difference for people affected by armed conflict and other

situations of violence.

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