International Committee of Red Cross
Since its creation in 1863, the ICRC's sole objective has been to ensure protection and assistance
for victims of armed conflict and strife. It does so through its direct action around the world, as well as
by encouraging the development of international humanitarian law (IHL) and promoting respect for it by
governments and all weapon bearers. Its story is about the development of humanitarian action, the
Geneva Conventions and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
The ICRC is governed by an Assembly, an Assembly Council (a subsidiary body with certain
delegated powers) and a Directorate (the executive body). Both the Assembly, with up to 25 co-opted
members of Swiss nationality, and the Assembly Council are chaired by Peter Maurer, who has been
President of the ICRC since 1 July 2012. He is assisted by a Vice-President, Christine Beerli.
The Directorate, with five members, is chaired by the Director-General, Mr. Yves Daccord.
Role of ICRC:
Addressing sexual violence
Sexual violence is prevalent in many modern conflicts. The ICRC is stepping up its efforts to prevent this
crime and help the victims.
International humanitarian law aims to prevent and alleviate suffering in war without discrimination
based on sex. But it does recognize that women face specific problems in armed conflict, such as sexual
violence and risks to their health. Children are especially vulnerable in armed conflicts. Despite the
protection provided by law, they continue to be recruited by armed forces and armed groups. They are
often separated from their families, driven from their homes, killed, maimed, sexually abused or
exploited in other ways.
ICRC economic security activities keep people alive and then enable them to start supporting
themselves again. We supply food, shelter, and other essentials, run sustainable food production and
micro-economic initiatives, and ensure access to health care and education.
Refugees and displaced persons protected under international humanitarian law
Refugees are people who have crossed an international frontier and are at risk or have been victims
of persecution in their country of origin. Internally displaced persons (IDPs), on the other hand, have not
crossed an international frontier, but have, for whatever reason, also fled their homes.
2. Refugee law – mainly the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the Convention
Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa - and the mandate of the Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provide the main framework for protection
and assistance for refugees. Refugees are also protected by general human rights law, and if they find
themselves in a State involved in armed conflict, by international humanitarian law.
The general provisions of IHL protect civilian refugees in States involved in armed conflict, but they also
receive special protection under the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol I. This
additional protection recognizes the vulnerability of refugees as aliens in the hands of a party to a
Water and shelter
Each year, armed conflict disrupts millions of lives. The ICRC provides water in conflict zones and
creates or maintains a sustainable living environment. Ultimately, this work reduces death and suffering
due to habitat damage or disruption to water supplies.
Cooperation with the National Societies
The ICRC works closely with the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and with their
International Federation in order to ensure a concerted, rational and rapid humanitarian response to
the needs of the victims of armed conflict or any other situation of internal violence. The International
Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the largest humanitarian network in the world. It operates as
a neutral and independent organization with a view to assisting all victims.
In a country affected by armed conflict, the ICRC and that country’s National Society − the ICRC’s
principal partner − pool their operational resources. In addition to dealing with emergencies, the
purpose of the partnership is to enable the National Society to better address the needs of the most
Operational cooperation covers various activities such as providing first aid and health care, distributing
food, taking war casualities to hospital and restoring family links.
This type of cooperation can also include National Societies which wish to operate outside their own
countries in contexts where the ICRC is working. In this case, the Societies can contribute to ICRC
Working with the business world
The private sector is playing an increasing role in international relations. Working with the private
sector enables us to promote humanitarian principles with companies operating in war-prone areas and
to help the victims of war through mutually beneficial partnerships based on ethical criteria.