Council of Delegates 2011: Resolution 7
National Societies Preparing for and Responding to Armed Conflict and Other Situations of Violence
Council of Delegates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Geneva, Switzerland, 26 November 2011
Situations of violence can develop at any time and anywhere, as recent events demonstrate. They often give rise to issues of humanitarian concern that require an immediate response by National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies (National Societies). In addition, armed conflicts, chronic and sometimes protracted over several years or decades, require similar forms of humanitarian response. Demonstrations, which lead to violence pose another kind of challenge to the humanitarian sector – to adapt its working procedures, designed primarily for rural settings, to urban environments as well.
To enhance access to people and communities affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence,[i] and to respond effectively to their needs, it is essential that all the components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (Movement) work together in preparedness, response and recovery, to maximize their respective capacities and competencies.
Converging and Complementary Movement Mandates and Capacities
National Societies have a mandate, as described in the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (hereafter called the Statutes) to "organize, in liaison with the public authorities, emergency relief operations and other services to assist the victims of armed conflicts as provided in the Geneva Conventions, and the victims of natural disasters and other emergencies for whom help is needed."[ii] A number of resolutions adopted at Councils of Delegates and International Conferences reinforce the mandate of National Societies to act as auxiliaries to the public authorities in the humanitarian field[iii] and to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to those in need, including those affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence within their own countries.[iv]
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has a statutory mandate "to endeavour at all times – as a neutral institution whose humanitarian work is carried out particularly in time of international and other armed conflicts or internal strife[v] – to ensure the protection of and assistance to military and civilian victims of such events and of their direct results."[vi] In such situations, the ICRC works in close partnership with the National Society of the affected country as well as with participating National Societies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (International Federation) to prepare and carry out emergency humanitarian operations.
The International Federation's statutory mandate includes the following: "to inspire, encourage, facilitate and promote at all times all forms of humanitarian activities by the National Societies, with a view to preventing and alleviating human suffering and thereby contributing to the maintenance and the promotion of peace in the world"; “to act as the permanent body of liaison, coordination, and study between the National Societies and to give them any assistance they might request”; and "to bring help to victims of armed conflicts in accordance with the agreements concluded with the International Committee." [vii]
The mandates and capacities, as well as the unique positioning of each of the Movement’s components must be taken fully into consideration when preparing for and responding to armed conflict and other situations of violence, in order to maximize the impact of the protection and assistance provided to the populations most in need. Activities should be allocated bearing these factors in mind as well as considering the level of acceptance provided to the various Movement components and whether the ICRC, the National Society or the two together would be better placed to respond. Improved Movement coordination and further discussion among the components of the Movement on the specific questions raised by 'other situations of violence' which results in an increased convergence of preparedness, response and recovery actions is required, in accordance with Movement agreements and mechanisms, and on the basis of context-specific circumstances and needs, to enhance access and response to the humanitarian needs of people and communities affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence.
The ICRC’s Response to a Request by National Societies
To adapt to the ever-changing environment, many National Societies have taken important measures in recent years to strengthen their response during armed conflict and other situations of violence.
Based upon the best practices of National Societies, the ICRC developed the Safer Access Framework.[viii] This Framework outlines the numerous interconnected actions that a National Society needs to carry out in order to increase its acceptance by individuals, communities, weapon bearers and authorities and thereby gain safer access to people and communities during armed conflict and other situations of violence.
During a plenary session at the 2009 Council of Delegates,[ix] National Societies requested the ICRC to develop operational guidance for National Societies working in armed conflict and other situations of violence. It was determined through a comprehensive consultation process with National Societies that the Safer Access Framework and the lessons learned from current National Society experience would be used as the foundation to develop a practical guide to strengthen the capacity of all National Societies to prepare for and respond to armed conflict and other situations of violence.
The guide will also enhance the practical application of the Seville Agreement and its Supplementary Measures, in particular by providing support for host National Societies to fulfil their mandates and play their roles in a Movement coordinated response to armed conflict or to other situations of violence.
Today, armed conflict and other situations of violence pose new, evolving challenges for the Movement's response. Some of the most significant are set out below.
Recurrent attacks against Movement personnel, including National Society staff and volunteers, their facilities and equipment, and the harm caused to beneficiaries are causing alarm.
Some National Societies are prevented by all those who can influence access to beneficiaries, from providing humanitarian services to those in need on all sides of an armed conflict or other situations of violence, or they are challenged or even harassed when they attempt to do so. In this respect, there is, in some countries, a need to strengthen the National Society's statutory and legal instruments to better reflect its role in armed conflicts and other situations of violence. This should take into account the Fundamental Principle of Independence, which balances the autonomy of National Societies with their status and role as auxiliaries to the public authorities in the humanitarian field.
There are many recent examples of well-coordinated Movement responses during armed conflict and other situations of violence. However, our response to the humanitarian needs of the people and communities affected could be improved. It is important to deepen our shared Movement knowledge and understanding of emerging trends in such situations and their consequences for humanitarian action, in order to improve the quality of our response and develop a uniform Movement approach. Overall, the Movement components need to improve their level of readiness to respond to the needs of affected people rapidly and effectively in a coordinated and complementary manner, taking into account the changing environments in which they work. The ICRC and National Societies should pay particular attention to developing contingency plans that are coordinated and complement one another, to guide their responses during armed conflict and other situations of violence.
Adherence to the Fundamental Principles, and fostering respect in others for our adherence to the principles, are permanent challenges for all Movement components and are vitally important in increasing the degree of acceptance that is required to secure safer access to the people and communities affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence. The Statutes of the Movement and relevant Councils of Delegates resolutions[x] emphasize this point.
Recognizing the mandate of National Societies as per the Statutes of the Movement to operate and respond to armed conflict, natural disasters and other emergencies including internal strife and other situations of violence and in order to strengthen the Movement's response to armed conflict and other situations of violence, the 2011 Council of Delegates:
1. encourages National Societies to intensify their commitment and efforts to adopt appropriate security/risk management systems, and to take other concrete measures to increase their safer access in armed conflict and other situations of violence. This includes the need to enhance the operational application of the Fundamental Principles and other relevant Movement policies as well as to obtain insurance coverage[xi] for staff and volunteers working in crises, to adequately compensate them for possible injury, including psychological trauma/stress, or death in the line of duty;
2. urges National Societies, where necessary, to engage in a dialogue with all concerned governments on the need for access to all populations affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence and to exert influence, where possible, on all those who can influence access to beneficiaries to respect the National Societies' role to provide neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian services, (as defined by the Fundamental Principles), with the support and involvement of the ICRC as appropriate;
3. urges National Societies, ICRC and the International Federation to continue to explore and analyse, emerging trends and challenges to humanitarian action during armed conflict and other situations of violence, with a view to making such shared analyses the basis of coordinated contingency planning for the provision of rapid, effective and coherent response to the humanitarian needs of people and communities affected, while also strengthening their resilience;
4. encourages National Societies to further define their mandates, roles and responsibilities in armed conflict and other situations of violence within their statutory and legal base instruments, as appropriate, and to promote their role broadly, both within their National Society, and with external actors and communities;
5. invites the ICRC and the International Federation to work closely with National Societies to define how the mandates, roles and responsibilities of National Societies in armed conflict and other situations of violence may best be reflected in National Societies' statutory and legal base instruments and to advise National Societies engaged in revising their statutes accordingly;
6. recommends that National Societies, as part of their permanent dialogue with their respective governments, work towards strengthening domestic legislation, policies, agreements and plans in order to establish the framework required to enable them to provide effective assistance and protection to populations affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence;
7. invites the components of the Movement, to continue to develop a practical guide to further clarify the term other situations of violence and to strengthen the capacity of all National Societies to prepare for and respond to armed conflict and other situations of violence – based on the Fundamental Principles, the Statutes of the Movement, relevant Movement policies and current National Society experience, as a valuable contribution towards building a Movement approach in this area;
8. encourages the International Federation to work closely with the ICRC and National Societies to develop effective mechanisms that ensure the aforementioned guide and ICRC's programmes and capacity strengthening expertise that support National Societies to prepare for and respond to armed conflict and other situations of violence, are taken into account in the approach toward the development of strong National Societies, with a particular emphasis on incorporating relevant elements into emergency preparedness, response, recovery and organizational development initiatives.
IV. The Background Report and Annex
The Background Report and Annex are for information purposes only and are not a part of decisions.
All the components of the Movement are requested to consider including the decisions listed above in their strategies, plans and objectives, where relevant.
Progress in implementing the decisions listed above will be included in the report to the Council of Delegates on the Implementation of the Seville Agreement and its Supplementary Measures in 2013 and 2015.
The ICRC, with the continued involvement of National Societies and the Secretariat of the International Federation, will develop the practical guide, which will address many of the challenges identified in this resolution, and more. It will be completed by the end of 2012 and will be introduced to Movement partners in 2013.
Canadian Red Cross
Colombian Red Cross
Jamaican Red Cross
Nepal Red Cross
Panama Red Cross
Paraguayan Red Cross
Ugandan Red Cross
Saint Lucia Red Cross
The Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross
Tunisian Red Crescent
[xi] Ideally, insurance coverage should be provided to all volunteers, particularly those involved in emergency response operations, by the National Society through a national insurance company that provides insurance appropriate to the context and adapted to local realities. To deal with situations where this is not available, the Secretariat of the International Federation has put in place global accident insurance available through the headquarters of all National Societies.