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Launch of the ICRC Annual Report 2005: armed conflict on all five continents takes heavy toll on civilians

01-06-2006 News Release 06/54

The ICRC's Annual Report 2005, just published in Geneva, paints a grim picture of the impact of armed conflict and violence on civilians. They face killing, injury, displacement, rape and sexual harassment, forced labour and recruitment, detention, and the destruction of property and of the means of survival. The collapse of basic services in areas such as health, water and education exacerbates their suffering.

  ©ICRC/T. Gassmann/cer-e-00229    
  The president of the ICRC, Jakob Kellenberger    

  ©ICRC/T. Gassmann/cer-e-00230    
  During the press conference for the launch of the Annual Report    

While the Annual Report 2005 notes favourable developments and a reduction in the level of violence for individuals and communities in some conflict areas, in others there is cause for growing concern, in particular western Sudan (Darfur), southern and central Somalia, northern Uganda and large parts of Iraq.

The scale of the suffering is reflected by the figures. The ICRC provided food for a million people last year, and emergency supplies such as tents and blankets for 3 million people. Water and sanitation activities and other construction work aided 11 million people, and an estimated 2,365,000 benefited from ICRC-supported health care facilities. The ICRC also visited 528,000 people deprived of their freedom in 2,600 places of detention in 76 countries and, working with National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies, exchanged almost a million messages between family members separated by hostilities and other crises.

Although most of today's conflicts are internal, they often affect entire regions, thus assuming international dimensions. In his introduction to the Annual Report , ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger acknowledges that " ensuring the protagonists in today's conflicts behave in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law, particularly in internal conflicts, remains one of the most daunting challenges " . Lack of respect for international humanitarian law has a devastating effect on the lives and security of civilians.

President Kellenberger refers specifically to the publication in 2005 of a major study on customary international humanitaria n law, carried out by the ICRC as part of its constant effort to promote and reaffirm the rules governing warfare. The study found that a substantial number of customary rules are applicable also in internal armed conflict, an area where treaty law is less well developed. Almost all the conflicts in 2005 were in fact non-international armed conflicts, and the ICRC President declares that the study represents a significant addition to international humanitarian law.

2005 will be remembered as a year of major natural disasters. The aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami and the South Asia earthquake affected sensitive regions beset by armed conflict or lack of security where the ICRC, being already present, was able to deploy emergency aid rapidly. In both contexts it worked closely with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the National Societies of the countries concerned. In Pakistan the ICRC had provided some 212,000 people with food, shelter materials and household items by the end of 2005.

During the year the ICRC extended its activities for internally displaced people (IDPs), working on their behalf in 35 different contexts around the world. It endeavoured to prevent population movements by protecting vulnerable groups, promoted self-reliance, and facilitated IDPs'return to their homes wherever possible.

The end of the year saw the adoption by the States party to the Geneva Conventions of Additional Protocol III recognizing the red crystal. " Devoid of any political, national or religious connotations whatsoever, the additional emblem will first and foremost enable the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to become truly universal. The ICRC has spared no effort to attain this goal; it remains committed to bringing the process to completion " , President Kellenberger concludes.

 For further information, please contact:  

  Antonella Notari, Head of Media Relations,  

 ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 22 82, mobile +41 79 217 32 80

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