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The ICRC – 150 years of humanitarian action

15-02-2013 News Release 13/26

Colombo (ICRC) – On 17 February, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will mark its 150th anniversary and commemorate the beginning of its efforts to bring relief to millions and improve the lives of countless people adversely affected by armed conflict and its direct consequences.

"The vision of Henry Dunant – the Red Cross idea – has not only survived but flourished through all these long years," said Peter Maurer, president of the ICRC. "Over the past century and a half, the ICRC has overcome political adversity, financial difficulty, cultural barriers and countless other obstacles to bring vitally needed humanitarian assistance and protection to people in need."

"Today, in Sri Lanka, the ICRC is carrying forward this vision through its work with national authorities and institutions, in particular, with its national partner, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS), to address the remaining humanitarian needs arising from the past conflict," said Yves Giovonnoni, Head of Delegation, Sri Lanka. "A particular focus is on meeting the needs of detainees, their families and the families of those still unaccounted for after the past conflict. The ICRC also works with the national authorities, the armed forces, the police and academics to promote humanitarian principles."
"This anniversary provides us with an opportunity to look critically at our past, and also to develop awareness of the strengths that have helped us in our activities carried out for millions of victims of conflict and other violence," said Mr. Maurer. "Now more than ever, we must not only remain true to our principles but also search for new ways to better serve the people who need help. We must redouble our efforts to make sure that the neutral, impartial and independent nature of our humanitarian activities is understood by all."

Once quite small with an entirely Swiss staff, the ICRC now performs its humanitarian tasks in over 90 countries all over the world, and has a workforce of almost 13,000 men and women of over 100 different nationalities. In Sri Lanka, the ICRC has been working since 1989, in cooperation with the SLRCS, first during the uprising in the South, then during the conflict with the LTTE in the East and in the North.

Please see news footage on the 150th anniversary available at

 For further information, please contact:
Sarasi Wijeratne, ICRC Colombo, tel: +94 11 250 33 46 or +94 773 1588 44