Overview of the ICRC’s work to promote economic security
The ICRC’s work to promote economic security aims to ensure that households and communities affected by conflict or armed violence can meet essential needs and maintain or restore sustainable livelihoods. Its activities range from emergency distributions of food and essential household items to programmes for sustainable food production and micro-economic initiatives. Needs covered include food, shelter, access to health care and education. Economic security activities are closely linked to health, water and habitat programmes. All these activities come within the ICRC’s global mission to protect victims of conflict.
The ICRC has defined four degrees of crisis regarding the coverage of essential needs and adjusts its response accordingly. In pre-crisis and acute crisis situations, the response meets essential needs – the aim is to save lives. In chronic crisis and post-crisis situations, the response promotes economic consolidation and reconstruction – the aim is to support livelihoods. The Economic Security (or EcoSec) Unit assesses needs at household level in order to obtain first-hand local information.
Action taken may include providing services directly, to make up for shortfalls from regular providers, supporting local service providers, persuading the authorities to shoulder their responsibilities and encouraging action by third parties where needed.
Relief aid is primarily intended to save lives and protect livelihoods when they are at immediate risk. This is done by giving people access to goods essential for their survival, such as household items, food, seed and tools. At the same time, ICRC delegates will maintain a dialogue with all parties to improve the protection of these populations at risk.
Production aid is intended to spur food production and possibly generate income, and ultimately to restore sustainable livelihoods. This means preserving household or community productive assets, such as agriculture and livestock. The aid includes vaccinating, culling and restocking herds, distributing tools, seed and fishing tackle and promoting micro-economic initiatives and capacity-building efforts.
Structural aid, provided mainly in chronic crisis and post-crisis settings, is intended to revive the output of sustainable productive assets (agriculture, for example) by encouraging service providers and other parties concerned to provide the required input, such as seed and tools. It may also be used to promote improvements in such areas as agricultural extension services and State-delivered social welfare programmes.
Micro-economic initiatives aim to strengthen income generation in households and entire communities in a sustainable manner and in a given time frame. The projects are tailored to meet individual needs, as expressed by the recipients. The most commonly used micro-economic tools are productive grants, vocational training and small loans.
The cost of EcoSec programmes amounts to about 20 per cent of ICRC field expenditure. The unit employs some 90 expatriate and 200 national staff, working in about 30 countries. They include specialists in a variety of fields, who also give training to local staff of the ICRC and its partners.