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Address by Jakob Kellenberger, President of the ICRC at the Governing Board of the International Federation - 2 May 2007

02-05-2007 Statement

in this address, the ICRC president says that priority is given to operational partnerships with operating National Societies involving strategic, long-term investment as operational partners.

Mr. President of the International Federation, Mr. Secretary General of the International Federation, dear members of the Governing Board,

I thank you warmly for giving me the opportunity to address you briefly. My first remarks relate to the Movement part of ICRC's institutional strategy for 2007-2010.

 ICRC's institutional strategy for 2007-2010  


 1 . Priority is given to operational partnerships with ONS involving strategic, long-term investment as operational partners. Armed conflicts such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq demonstrate that the ICRC and the ONS can have a far greater humanitarian impact by working together as partners than each could ever hope to achieve on its own. Let me just illustrate the importance of these partnerships with two of our five largest operations:


Since 2003, working in close partnership with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS), the ICRC has been one of the few international humanitarian organizations with a permanent operational presence in central, southern and northern parts of Iraq. It is now also extending its permanent presence to western Iraq in order to improve access to areas difficult to reach from other parts of the country for security reasons. Throughout their daily field activities, IRCS and ICRC staffers bear witness to the terrible plight of the entire popul ation.

The IRCS has remained operational despite daily adversities, including the killing of 14 of its staff and volunteers, the abduction of 45 others, 12 of whom remain unaccounted for, as well as numerous attacks on its offices, warehouses and convoys. I can only pay tribute to the courage and tenacity shown by IRCS staff and volunteers all over the country.

Since 2006, the IRCS has been the ICRC's primary partner for emergency relief response. The Society plays a pivotal role in the distribution of ICRC food and non-food aid to displaced families across the country, and in the collection and distribution of Red Cross Messages. The ICRC very much looks forward to continuing and expanding this essential relationship in a context where independent and neutral humanitarian action is vital.


The recent fighting in Somalia is the latest in a series of catastrophes to affect the country's population. The inhabitants of Mogadishu have been caught up in the worst fighting in 15 years. Hundreds have been wounded and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee the Somali capital. They have sought refuge in other areas, living in makeshift camps or hosted by local residents.

"We shall strengthen our ability to be good partners for ONS, to make sure that partnerships with the ICRC will have a clear added value. Both the ICRC and the ONS must emerge stronger from their partnerships." 

The ICRC has stepped up its humanitarian operations in Somalia to treat the wounded and assist displaced families. Its primary partner is the Somali Red Crescent Society, which has managed to remain operational in even the most c onflict-affected parts of the country. Today the ICRC supports five first aid posts and 23 SRCS health clinics located in violence-prone areas.

The success of this partnership between the ICRC and the SRCS testifies to the trust they have managed to build within Somali society. I pay tribute to the steadfast determination of the SRCS to pursue its humanitarian mission in extremely difficult circumstances, and to express our appreciation for a partnership which allows the ICRC and SRCS to do much more together than they could ever hope to achieve on their own.

We shall strengthen our ability to be good partners for ONS, to make sure that partnerships with the ICRC will have a clear added value. Both the ICRC and the ONS must emerge stronger from their partnerships.

 2 . This also includes the reinforcement of the emergency response capacity of ONS. The Federation and the ICRC have begun to work together on tools and approaches for emergency preparedness and response. This needs to be intensified so that the role of global " first responder " becomes a defining characteristic of the Movement components.

 3 . Restoring links between families is another crucial area of partnership with ONS, which is also highlighted in ICRC's institutional strategy for 2007-2010. A Movement strategy for restoring family links will be submitted for adoption at the upcoming Council of Delegates at the end of the year. This strategy encompasses all situations in which families might become separated - armed conflicts and internal strife, but also natural and technological disasters and migratory movements. We need the support of the International Federation to ensure that tracing becomes an integral part of the ONS disaster management as well as its actions on behalf of migra nts.

 4 . We shall further deepen the cooperation with PNS. In particular in the field of rapid deployment in order to better understand and better integrate their competences and the contributions they can make in this particularly important and sensitive phase.

 Seville Agreement/Supplementary Measures  


Implementation of the SA is important in strengthening the role of the ONS in emergency preparedness and response. The concept of ONS as " primary partner " is being institutionalised throughout the Movement: The Federation and ICRC have developed a joint training tool, which is serving as the basis for training of operational managers not only within the two Geneva institutions, but also among PNS and ONS around the world. A strong momentum has been created, which is being felt in the field and translated into operational practice (ex. Lebanon). In this regard, I would like to salute the ongoing work of the Resolution 8 group, comprising some of you who are here at this Governing Board. The ICRC strongly supports your efforts, and recognises the need to intensify the positive momentum which you have helped to generate. 

 Council of delegates and International Conference 2007  


 1 . The Statutory Meetings of 2007 offer us the opportunity to position the Movement as a network comprising components with their own identities which, whenever required by our common mission, can come together as a " Movement " and operate in a coherent manner dist inct from other networks or systems. The International Conference is an opportunity to explain and to emphasize the specificities of the Movement, mandate and role of its different components.

We should also clearly identify and promote the " added value " of our action and partnerships in addressing humanitarian consequences of some of the great challenges of our time. Some of these challenges are dealt with in various frameworks. We have therefore, in a convincing manner, to show the Movements value added in addressing those challenges if we want the States attention and support. We should not underestimate either the importance of being clear and understandable on the cope of action for National Societies in their auxiliary role and as components of the Movement attached to the basic principles.

 2 . International Conference and IHL

As is usually the case, IHL will be high on the agenda of the next Conference. The conference should reaffirm the applicability and relevance of IHL for preserving human life and dignity in armed conflict.

In a draft resolution, accompanied by a " background document " providing explanations, members of the Conference will be asked to commit themselves to respect and ensure respect of IHL.

We would like them to reaffirm the basic tenets of the law - such as the principe of distinction - and the fundamental guarantees to which all persons in the power of a party to the conflict are entitled. Such guarantees include the right to humane treatment, the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, of arbitrary detention and the right to fair trial.

The draft resolution will also underline the importance of national implementation of IHL, of training and education, and of enforcement by national and international tribunals.

The ICRC will also submit a report on its Customary IHL Study, as requested by the 2003 Conference. However, the Conference will not be asked to adopt the Study.

Another ICRC report will enumerate a number of IHL challenges, such as asymmetric warfare and issues related to terrorist acts, the notion of " direct participation in hostilities " , private military and security companies, the need for procedural safeguards in administrative detention and internment, etc.

IHL will be discussed more specifically in a Commission, as well as in informal workshops.

Members of the Conference are strongly encouraged to make pledges on IHL.

 Constitutional Review process of the International Federation  


We take note of the ongoing process to review the Federation constitution, and look forward to the opportunity in the coming weeks to express our views on aspects relating to our common spheres of competence, such as the protection of the integrity of National Societies. I would like to express again our appreciation for the opportunity given to Vice-President Jacques Forster to participate in the Board Committee on the Protection of the Integrity of National Societies, and stress the importance for the ICRC of its continued participation in this Board or whatever body may replace it following the revision of the Constitution of the International Federation.

I thank you once more for your friendly invitation to briefly address your Governing Board. This gesture reflects the good and trustful cooperation between the International Federation and the ICRC and is highly appreciated.