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Despite security constraints, ICRC expanded its activities in 2004

17-06-2005 News Release 05/33

During the public launch in Geneva of the ICRC Annual Report for 2004, President Jakob Kellenberger set out the major operations in favour of war victims worldwide.

  ©ICRC/T. Gassmann/CER-E-00182    
  Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross    


  ©ICRC/T. Gassmann/CER-E-00181    

  See also  
  High resolution photos
Selection for professional use
The ICRC worldwide in 2004
Key facts and figures  

2004 Annual report   

Geneva (ICRC) – The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jakob Kellenberger, presented the organization's 2004 annual report to the public today during a press conference at ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

In 2004 the ICRC expanded its operations and reached greater numbers of people in need despite a difficult security environment. Civilians, who are the main victims of today's conflicts, remain the primary beneficiaries of ICRC protection and assistance activities worldwide.

ICRC assistance programmes provided food for over 1.3 million people in 34 countries and household items for more than 2.2 million people. The organization also helped local communities provide for themselves through sustainable food-production programmes and micro-economic initiatives benefiting over 1.1 million individuals. Water, sanitation and construction work catered for the needs of some 19.4 million people worldwide. Over 2.7 million benefited from the nearly 250 health-care facilities supported by the ICRC in 2004.

ICRC action in behalf of people deprived of their freedom, a particularly vulnerable group, was again one of the organization's priorities. In 2004 ICRC delegates visited over 2,400 places of detention in 80 countries worldwide, gaining access to some 570,000 people – roughly 100,000 more than in 2003. Securing access to detainees and compliance with the ICRC's standard visiting procedures remained a challenge in many cases. The main purpose of such visits is to assess the conditions of detention and the treatment of detainees on a regular basis.

The ICRC collected and forwarded over 1.3 million Red Cross messages worldwide to enable relatives separated by conflict and other forms of armed violence to remain in touch. It also established the whereabouts of over 6,000 people for whom tracing requests had been filed by their families.

Africa accounted for 45 per cent of the ICRC's field budget in 2004. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Ethiopia and Somalia were among the organization's 10 largest operations worldwide, the largest one of all being in Sudan's Darfur region. The ICRC also resumed its activities in northern Uganda.

Afghanistan remained the ICRC's largest operation in Asia. The organization also increased in presence and developed its activities in Nepal. In the final days of the year, major relief operations were launched within hours after earthquakes and tsunamis devastated entire communities in Sri Lanka and Indonesia's Aceh province.

The ICRC carried out a wide range of assistance and protection activities for victims of the conflict in Colombia and conducted large-scale programmes for vulnerable civilians in the Russian Federation, particularly in Chechnya and other parts of the northern Caucasus. It also continued negotiations on the resumption of visits to persons held in connection with the conflict in Chechnya. 

Two of the largest ICRC operations in 2004 were in the Middle East. In Iraq, the organization focused on visits to detainees and emergency medical aid. However, security problems severely limited its ability to respond to needs. In Israel and the occupied and autonomous territories, it visited detainees and promoted compliance with international humanitarian law.

The ICRC's commitment to independent, neutral and impartial humanitarian action remained vital to the organization's credibility and ability to act in 2004.

International humanitarian law was at the centre of much public attention, with debate focusing on the issue of compliance and on the relevance of the law to present-day conflicts. The main challenge remained to achieve respect for the law. Throughout 2004 the ICRC made confidential representations to the parties to armed conflict in cases where violations were being committed. It finished its study on customary rules of international humanitarian law published this spring and initiated a study on mechanisms that may be used to improve compliance with humanitarian law in non-international armed conflicts, particularly by armed opposition groups. This study is due to be completed in 2005.

The 2004 annual report also illustrates the ICRC's commitment to good governance and accountability. By planning operations and setting objectives and budgets on the basis of its direct field assessments, the organization is able to raise funds for precisely defined needs and to use them accordingly. Its annual financial statements comply with International Financial Reporting Standards and are examined by an international audit firm.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Antonella Notari, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 730 22 82 or ++41 79 217 32 80  

 Vincent Lusser, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 730 24 26 or ++41 79 217 32 64