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Sustainable development at the ICRC

03-06-2012 Overview

Sustainable development can be defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." The ICRC, by its very nature as a humanitarian organization, has a moral duty to consider future generations when designing and implementing relief operations.

In November 2011, the ICRC drew up a “sustainable development framework,” which commits us to integrating sustainable development into our humanitarian work. The aim is to minimize the negative impact of ICRC activities on the environment, while making best use of financial resources and being a socially-responsible humanitarian agency.

In January 2012, the ICRC launched a pilot project in four delegations, with the task of improving social and environmental management in the field.

Clearly, finding the right balance between the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development will be difficult:

  • The conflict environments in which the ICRC operates often lack the basic infrastructure on which to base environmental protection, and people affected by conflict may develop coping mechanisms that harm the environment, such as cutting down forests for firewood.
  • The effects of behaviour on the environment are complex, and it is not always easy to see what behaviour will have what effect – perhaps at another time and in another place.
  • The effects of behaviour on the environment vary from one time and place to another.

Applying the principles of sustainable development will enable us to prepare for post-conflict reconstruction right from the start of a programme, without limiting our freedom to act.

Sustainable development is fully compatible with emergency action. It forms part of the ICRC's efforts to offer even better support to the victims of armed conflict and violence.


ICRC sustainable development objectives

The ICRC intends to:

  • Reduce the impact of environmental degradation and climate change on the victims of conflict and violence.
  • Control the environmental footprint of its operational and support activities.
  • Be socially responsible – both as an employer and as an organization.
  • Manage financial resources ethically.
  • Measure the organization’s performance on sustainable development and report on it yearly.
  • Ensure that ICRC staff support sustainable development and practice it in their work.


Eritrea, southern Debud. Solar-powered water-supply systems. 

Eritrea, southern Debud. Solar-powered water-supply systems.