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Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance

19-11-2007 Statement

United Nations, General Assembly, 62nd session, Plenary, item 71 of the agenda, Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), New York, 19 Novembre 2007

Mr Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is pleased to address the present assembly on the subject of humanitarian coordination, particularly in connection with armed conflicts and other situations of violence.

The humanitarian world has evolved rapidly over the past few years as more and more players enter the arena, often with different objectives, operating standards and activities. The humanitarian bodies within the United Nations have embarked on a process of reform. The main donor governments have also begun a process of collective reflection. Foreign military assistance is increasingly present in humanitarian crises and the role of secular and religious NGOs, private companies and other players is growing as well. In this constantly changing environment, the ICRC intends to remain the benchmark organization for neutral, independent, and strictly humanitarian action and for international humanitarian law, both through its action on the ground and in its dialogue with beneficiaries, governments, donors, parties to conflicts and other stakeholders.

Thanks to its active presence worldwide, the ICRC is able to develop and maintain contacts with all those who have a significant impact on the course of armed conflicts and on the humanitarian problems that these conflicts create. Such contacts are crucial in gaining access to the field and in permitting the ICRC to conduct its activities for the victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. For the ICRC, humanitarian coordination should take place first and foremost in the field. It should be reality-based and action-oriented, in other words it s hould be based on real capacities available in the field in emergency situations and not on declarations of intent. 

The ICRC has a unique mandate to protect persons affected by armed conflict and it intends to remain the benchmark organization in this area as well, in particular by helping to ensure that all parties to armed conflicts meet their obligations towards civilians, by improving the protection afforded to persons deprived of their liberty, by restoring family links and by obtaining reliable information on missing persons. With regard to assistance, an activity most of the time closely linked to protection, the ICRC will continue to maintain its approach of covering all emergency needs by providing quality health-care in general and medical care in particular, in addition to its relief, water and sanitation activities. It is currently reinforcing its capacity to evaluate the results and impact of its activities. The ICRC is strongly committed to remaining a reliable and predictable organization that conducts itself in a consistent manner and whose work is underpinned by a strong culture of accountability. It will continue to strengthen its ability to learn from its own experience and from that of other organizations.

Mr Chairman,

Humanitarian needs in complex emergencies largely exceed the capacity of any single organization to cope. Many agencies with varying objectives and principles for action are therefore needed to respond to such emergencies. The diversity of humanitarian actors and approaches can enhance the response and alleviate suffering if all those involved manage to act in a complementary fashion, in keeping with their respective operational abilities and expertise and with the relevance of their activities to the situation on the ground.

The ICRC takes part in coordination efforts together with other humanitarian organizations. It cooperates in particular with its nat ural partners, the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the countries where it works. The ICRC invests in these relationships with a view to strengthening its own capacity for action and that of its partner National Societies in cooperation with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The ICRC also gives preference to cooperation with National Societies participating in international relief operations in accordance with the rules and agreements of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Mr Chairman,

At the international level, the ICRC continues to take part in humanitarian-coordination forums. These include the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, where it enjoys the status of " standing invitee, " the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response and the new Global Humanitarian Platform. In addition, the ICRC seeks to maintain and strengthen its bilateral relations with other major humanitarian organizations.


A good example of this is the agreement reached in November 2006 by UNHCR and the ICRC on individuals and populations of concern to each organization. Taking into account the specific mandates and primary roles of the two organizations, we have agreed to consult one another and to coordinate our activities with a view to ensuring their complementarity, both in the field and at headquarters. Keeping to its " all-victims and all-needs approach, " the ICRC has agreed with UNHCR to pursue a structured dialogue in areas of mutual concern relating to protection and assistance for internally displaced persons and refugees. The ICRC is also engaged in this type of dialogue with other major humanitarian agencies within the United Nations system, such as the WFP and UNICEF.

In conclusion, the ICRC is convinced that, in the best interests of the victi ms of armed conflict and other situations of violence, humanitarian coordination should maximize the added value that each organization can bring to the field. The ICRC sees its added value mainly in being a truly independent and neutral humanitarian actor with, globally, a very large access to those in need of protection and assistance as consequence of an armed conflict or other situations of violence.