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Overview of the ICRC's operations in 2007


 The following is an extract from the introduction by Pierre Krähenbühl, Director of Operations.  

In this document, the ICRC presents its main operational trends and priorities for 2007. It reflects the organization's bottom-up approach, containing primarily the analysis, objectives and plans of action developed by the ICRC's 80 delegations and missions around the world. In this consolidated form, they represent the carefully considered and targeted responses to the needs identified by the ICRC at the time of writing in late October 2006.

Development of conflict environments 

The year 2006 was marked by the intensification of a number of conflicts and widespread violence resulting in untold suffering for countless children, women and men. Al though some conflicts have attracted a fair level of attention and debate, for many working in the humanitarian field or in the media, it has proved difficult to convey a real sense of what war represents for those who endure its manifold consequences.

Iraq is a telling example of this dramatic reality, with daily reports of atrocious killings, increasingly the result of sectarian violence. Some 6,000 people were reported killed in Iraq during the month of August 2006 alone. Because such numbers are beyond most people’s comprehension, the individuals behind the figures remain anonymous and the impact on their families unseen.

The same applies to the innumerable other people affected by conflict around the world, from displaced people in Colombia, Uganda, Sudan/Darfur or Sri Lanka, to women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Haiti or Nepal, civilians or detainees in Myanmar, the Northern Caucasus, Central Asia or Lebanon and the victims of drought, floods or conflict in Somalia.

Many of today's conflicts are characterized by varied and often intertwined or overlapping forms of confrontation, with local, regional and global implications and involvement. These include a limited number of inter-State wars and a growing number of highly complex internal conflicts involving a multiplicity of actors with diverse motives and a broad range of grievances.

Notable is the rise in influence of non-State actors, whose role has spurred much debate in recent years. While they have long been a feature of internal conflicts, they tended to be limited in number in any given context and to take the form of guerrilla or national liberation movements engaged in classic insurrection-type hostilities. Today, non-State actors in several conflict zones are characterized by instability and a tendency to fragment into different subfactions under new commands or loosely organized entities. Moreover, some ha ve assumed transnational proportions, coming into confrontation with certain States at a global level. Acts of “terrorism” and counter-“terrorist” operations are a feature of this growing phenomenon.

Economic factors continue to weigh heavily on conflict dynamics, as competition persists for access to markets and critical natural resources such as oil, while certain actors indulge in various forms of economic predation. The reality in many countries remains the weakness or generalized collapse of public-sector services such as health, water supply and social welfare.

Globally, developments in conflict-prone environments have been reinforced by the widespread proliferation of weapons, environmental degradation, the scarcity of agricultural land and water, and mass migration from rural to urban settings. This last has contributed to an increase in new forms of urban violence, often blurring the distinction between political violence and criminality.

Current conflicts tend to be long, drawn out, chronic in nature and, in several instances, of low intensity. But even low-intensity conflicts can have a far-reaching impact on civilians both in terms of the numbers killed, injured, detained, separated or missing and in terms of the indirect consequences whereby, for example, people in urgent need of medical care cannot access health facilities because of fighting.

The interconnection between many of the factors described above, both local and global, continues to complicate the analysis of specific and overall situations and the formulation of appropriate responses. The overriding challenge ahead is to properly understand the diversity of situations of conflict and violence, as well as to meaningfully address the multiple needs of the affected populations.

Implications for current ICRC operations 

This last year has been a very demanding one in operational terms. The ICRC began with a field budget of CHF 895 million for 2006 and added seven separate budget extensions in the course of the year, amounting to CHF 144 million.

Throughout the year, the ICRC combined its commitment to alleviate human suffering caused by long-term, often neglected crises in countries such as the Central African Republic, Chad, Haiti, Nepal, Somalia and Yemen with prompt action in response to emerging or sudden humanitarian crises in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied and the Autonomous Palestinian territories, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste, among others.

As in previous years, ICRC field operations responded to diverse needs and situations. Access to populations in conflict zones remained a pressing concern. Visits to detaineesfamily-links took place according to standard ICRC procedures in around 80 different countries. However, differences between the ICRC and the authorities concerned regarding access to security detainees in the contexts of the Russian Federation and Myanmar remained unresolved. Tracing and services again proved vital in, for example, enabling family members to visit relatives held in places of detention in Israel and Iraq or to be reunited with relatives in the DRC, Lebanon or Sri Lanka. The ICRC further intensified its efforts to resolve the issue of missing persons . For the relatives, a majority of whom are women, there are a range of needs to be addressed, from the need – and right – to learn of the fate of a loved one, to the identification of remains, decent burial and legal and economic support. The ICRC was involved in a number of programmes in this respect in the Balkans, the Southern Caucasus, South and Central America, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Strategies combining protectionassistanceinternally displaced people and activities were implemented on behalf of civilians affected by conflict and violence. These included programmes for in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, northern Uganda, Liberia, Colombia, Nepal and elsewhere. In other contexts, such as Darfur, following coordination with other agencies, the ICRC gave priority to addressing the needs of populations in remote rural areas. The ICRC further enhanced its capacity to respond more effectively to the specific needs of women and young girls . Programmes in the DRC, combining medical treatment, community-based counselling and protection and prevention approaches, remained the most comprehensive. Analytical and response capacities were boosted in many countries, including Liberia, Sudan, Nepal, Pakistan, and Yemen. Its acceptance by all actors, proximity to the victims of armed conflict and the security of its staff remained central to the ICRC's ability to operate. From a security standpoint, 2006 was again a difficult year, with the loss of three colleagues, one in Darfur, one in Senegal and one in Haiti. There were also three instances of kidnapping: in the Palestinian territories, Ethiopia and Haiti. The ICRC is also still without news of two of its staff members, one who went missing in South Africa in 2001 and the other abducted from his home in Chechnya in 2003. In general, the ICRC continued to operate in highly co mplex and volatile environments, such as Iraq , where a specific security-management approach remained in place enabling it to carry out a number of important activities, notably visits to detainees and action in response to acute emergencies.

The risks of rejection by some actors who challenge the legitimacy of humanitarian action or of the instrumentalization of humanitarian action are ever present. In light of these tendencies, the ICRC strove to demonstrate the specific advantages of its neutral and independent approach through its operational decisions and field strategies.

In parallel, the ICRC gave precedence to the maintenance of bilateral and confidential dialogue with influential State and non-State actors. It also pursued efforts to promote and demonstrate the relevance of IHL in contemporary forms of armed conflict. More critically, it sought to ensure respect for IHL by the parties engaged in armed conflict.

During the year, the ICRC’s strategic partnerships with National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies proved crucial in several countries, including Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Colombia, the DRC and Somalia. In these and other contexts, the National Societies often played a pivotal role in responding rapidly to needs or reaching people in remote regions.

Coordination with other humanitarian agencies remained essential. In this respect, the ICRC combined an assertive affirmation of its own identity and the distinct benefits of its specific neutral and independent operational approach with a proactive strategy of coordination in the field based on local realities and needs. Several delegations began interacting with cluster-led agencies and Inter-Agency Standing Committee country teams.

Key challenges for the ICRC in 2007 
Developing a universal and professional humanitarian response to needs in times of armed conflict and violence 

It remains essential for the ICRC to respond to needs that arise in the full spectrum of conflict situations across the globe. This requires the ability to act rapidly and effectively in instances of acute crisis, as in Lebanon or Sri Lanka. The ICRC is determined to make optimum use of its expertise and added value, based on a structured and constantly updated early-warning, rapid-response and rapid-learning capacity. Equally central is the capacity to sustain longer-term commitments in chronic crises, early transitional phases or situations of violence that are out of the spotlight.

A professional humanitarian response means several things. First and foremost, it implies concern for people, concern for their individual dignity and sensitivity when addressing their most urgent needs. Acting in proximity to the victims of armed conflicts – men, women and children who have borne the brunt of arbitrary violence and who have endured great suffering – also implies concern for quality, timely and meaningful humanitarian action to protect and assist them, as well as determination to seek dialogue and interaction with all actors in a conflict zone.

Second, the ability to fulfil its humanitarian task entails having qualified staff – national and international, generalists and specialists – who are familiar with and understand the different contexts in which they work. Humanitarian workers also require special qualities such as sensitivity to cultural differences, curiosity, the ability to listen and a desire to find solutions to even the most intractable problems in highly complex environments.

Thirdly, implementing effective humanitarian responses means investing in and developing ICRC capacities in specific fields of expertise to ensure future relevance. In 2007–08, the ICRC will continue to reinforce its protection activities through staff development and supplementary resources. These efforts focus in particular on detention, protection of civilians, tracing work and clarifying the fate of missing persons. The ICRC will furthermore launch a programme to strengthen its capacity in the medical field, notably in the areas of basic health care, hospital management and health needs in detention.

Lastly, a professional humanitarian response implies an ability to integrate various activities, such as protection and assistance or protection and prevention, based on an all-victims approach and a multifaceted response to specific needs, such as those of women and girls or internally displaced people. The ICRC sees the wide range of services it is now able to deliver as being a key added value that it needs to preserve.

Focusing on operational and security management 

The ICRC's operational philosophy – acting in closest possible proximity to the victims of conflict – requires a commitment to develop and maintain a broad network of staff in the different contexts in which it works and a highly decentralized security-management concept. It also demands a shared recognition of the risks involved in the current diversified and often unpredictable environments.

The perception and acceptance of the ICRC are essential elements that must be constantly monitored. Furthermore, how the ICRC is perceived in one context today may rapidly influence the perception of the organization – and thus the security environment – elsewhere. The capacity to analyse and deal with the various ways the ICRC is perceived in different contexts must be further developed. As already noted, in today’s conflicts this involves building relations based on trust with State actors and with diverse non-State actors, some with initially clear chains of command, but which later splinter into sub-groups or clans with shifting agendas and alliances. It also means dealing with a wide array of parties, from radical armed groups or urban gangs to powerful conventional armies. Learning to adapt to and work with this diversity is crucial.

The threat posed by mines remains a major problem in several contexts, an issue that calls for constant attention. In addition, dealing with increased levels of basic criminality is a major challenge in many contexts.

Safeguarding the essence of neutral and independent humanitarian action 

In 2006, there were further developments within the broader humanitarian sector. These included the ongoing UN reform process, the cluster dynamic, the Global Humanitarian Platform (a dialogue between the UN and non-UN humanitarian organizations) and the emergence of new humanitarian actors in the Middle East and Asia and among private enterprises.

Combining political, military, social and humanitarian objectives and activities within an overall crisis response is an ongoing trend and has become an inherent feature of many contexts today. Most often it takes the form of integrated – or multidisciplinary – UN missions or State-run stabilization campaigns.

The ICRC has made it clear that it cannot be part of such an integrated approach, although it has reaffirmed that it will continue to coordinate its activities proactively with all humanitarian actors concerned. The reason for this stance is that the ICRC has a responsibility to act in all situations of armed conflict and violen ce. Such situations are by definition highly sensitive, and to fulfil its role, the ICRC needs to build acceptance by and seek dialogue with all actors influencing or directly involved in a given conflict.

While other actors have complex mandates and diverse agendas, which may include political and constitutional reform, social change and economic transformation, the ICRC works with the actors and realities as they are on the ground. The ICRC in particular insists on dialogue with all parties to armed conflicts in order to reach and improve the lives of those most in need.

To be able to do this, the ICRC must be – and must 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. By the same token, the ICRC will continue to attach importance to bilateral and confidential dialogue in the conduct of its operations.

That said, the ICRC does not claim that there is only one definition of humanitarian action : complementarity is important. It does, however, want its own action to be clearly understood as separate and recognized for its distinct added-value in situations of armed conflict, whether acute, chronic or in transition.  
Improving partnerships and coordination 
 ICRC teams in the field and units at headquarters spend significant amounts of time in consultation and coordination with other organizations operating in the same contexts and sharing similar objectives. The ICRC will continue to identify operational and institutional partnerships with other components of the Red Cross and Red Crescent MovementUN agencies , in particular host National Societies, individual and NGOs.  
Investing in an evolving culture of management 

The ICRC will test new approaches to ensure the future relevance of its responses, as well as learn from critical reviews and evaluations of its operations and capabilities.

Operational priorities in 2007 

The core focus of the ICRC in 2007 will again be to act in closest proximity to people affected by armed conflict and internal violence and to provide them, to the best of its ability, with a meaningful humanitarian response to their plight. The ICRC will seek to act rapidly and efficiently, taking into account the diverse nature of the situations and needs it has to deal with.

The present document submits to your attention an initial appeal for CHF 843.3 million to cover ICRC field activities in 2007.

The ten largest operations worldwide will be: Sudan (CHF 73.1 million), Israel, the Occupied and Autonomous Palestinian Territories (CHF 71.0 million), Iraq (CHF 56.3 million), Afghanistan (CHF 48.2 million), the DRC (CHF 33.5 million), Colombia (CHF 28.5 million), countries covered by the Moscow regional delegation (CHF 28.0 million), Somalia (CHF 27.7 million), Ethiopia (CHF 27.5 million) and Sri Lanka (CHF 26.1 million).

Notable features 

A central feature of the ICRC's 2007 budget is the confirmation of a broad operational commitment and range of activities. The budget stands at approximately CHF 52 million below the initial budget for 2006. This is explained by reductions in Sudan, Pakistan, Myanmar and Nepal. At the same time, the budgets for Israel and the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chad, the DRC, Uganda and Colombia have increased.

The planned expenditure for Africa is CHF 338.3 million, accounting for over 40 per cent of the ICRC's worldwide operational commitments. The Horn of Africa continues to be one of the most demanding regions in overall terms for the ICRC, with highly complex operations that include Somalia (CHF 27.7 million), Ethiopia (CHF 27.5 million), Chad (CHF 17.1 million) and Sudan (CHF 73.1 million).

The Sudan operation remains the ICRC's largest worldwide for the fourth consecutive year. The reduction in its budget reflects assessments in the course of the year resulting in a shift of the focus of ICRC operations from direct and large-scale food distributions to activities in the fields of protection, health and livelihood support. In neighbouring Chad, the ICRC is reinforcing its capacity to respond to the needs of populations in the east and south-east of the country.

With the DRC (CHF 33.5million) and Uganda (CHF 24.3 million) currently undergoing a fragile transition, the ICRC will seek to broaden its access to vulnerable population groups in these two countries. In West Africa, Côte d’Ivoire (Abidjan regional delegation: CHF 23.3 million) and Liberia (CHF 22.0 million) remain the largest operations.

The budget for Asia and the Pacific (CHF 173.7 million) has evolved in several ways. The ICRC mounted a substantial response to the devastating earthquake of 8 October 2005 in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, in partnership with other components of the Movement, which continued into the first half of 2006. However, the ICRC made it clear from the start that it would focus its involvement on the emergency phase and limit it clearly in the recovery and reconstruction phases. This explains a reduced budget for Pakistan in 2007 (CHF 25.6 million).

In Afghanistan, which has sadly experienced increasing levels of conflict in several parts of the country, the ICRC is stepping up its operations (CHF 48.2 million). The focus remains on detention activities, as well as on medical and physical rehabilitation programmes. In partnership with the Afghan Red Crescent Society, the ICRC is extending the reach of its programmes. The budget for Sri Lanka, which has also seen a resurgence of conflict, will be increased (CHF 26.1 million).

Encouraging developments in Nepal during 2006 have enabled the ICRC to scale down its activities there and reduce its budget for 2007 accordingly (CHF 8.1 million). Myanmar, where the ICRC has carried out important activities on behalf of detainees and civilians for several years, has seen a worrying trend in terms of reduced ICRC acceptance and space for humanitarian action. The budget has consequently been decreased by half (CHF 7.5 million).

The Middle East experienced a marked deterioration on many fronts during 2006. This has led to a higher initial 2007 budget of CHF 163.9 million for the entire region. This increase reflects ICRC concern about the worsening situation of civilians in the Occupied and the Autonomous Palestinian territories (CHF 71.0 million), wh ere the ICRC will increase its assistance activities, as well as its family-visits programme for detainees, while maintaining its core role of monitoring compliance with IHL. In Iraq, the budget has been set at CHF 56.3 million, an increase reflecting the ICRC's will to achieve greater impact, in partnership with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, taking into account the immense needs of the population and the limits to humanitarian action imposed by the severe security constraints.


The ICRC demonstrated its ability to scale up its operations considerably during the war in Lebanon, working in close partnership with the Lebanese Red Cross. As in Pakistan, the ICRC made clear it would not become involved in the reconstruction phase. Rather, it will focus on lasting conflict-related needs, in particular in southern Lebanon (CHF 12.2 million).

The 2007 budget for EuropeAmericas and the is slightly lower than for 2006 (CHF 127.3 million). Colombia (CHF 28.5 million), however, sees a rise resulting from an increase in new population displacements. Haiti (CHF 5.3 million) remains a serious challenge. Meanwhile, the budgets for the Northern Caucasus (covered by the Moscow regional delegation: CHF 28.0 million) and Georgia (CHF 9.5 million) are lower than in 2006. Elsewhere, in the Southern Caucasus and the Balkans, operations have been successfully adjusted or reduced, so that the ICRC will concentrate on specific issues such as missing persons, detention and support to National Societies.  

Operating in such diverse and demandin g conflict environments is challenging in many ways. It involves: an ability to analyse and anticipate trends, while being ready to adapt to changes 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 corporations.

The ICRC is immensely grateful for donors’ support and confidence during a year in which its services were fully mobilized to respond to several new emergencies and ongoing armed conflicts. Its donors’ generosity and trust were instrumental in enabling the ICRC to carry out its mission. In return, the ICRC has strengthened its reporting and evaluation capacities in order to ensure optimum transparency on how it makes its decisions and uses donor funds.

Despite the often daunting constraints its teams face in the field, the ICRC is steadfast in its determination to make a difference for people affected by armed conflict.

  pdf file   Overview of Operations 2007  
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See also 

Press Release. ICRC appeals for more than one billion Swiss francs  

Key data for ICRC Emergency and Headquarters Appeals 2007.  

TV News footage    

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