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ICRC Overview of Operations 2003

Originally published
This document supplements the ICRC's Headquarters Appeal 2003and contains:
  • an overview of the ICRC's operations in 2003
  • a description of its presence in the field
  • a breakdown of its operational organization
  • a description of its target populations
  • a concise description of its programmes
  • a brief description of its 63 delegations
  • overall budget amounts
  • overall budget and budgets by programme for each delegation
The ICRC's operations in 2003 and the respective budget figures are presented in detail in the ICRC's Emergency Appeals 2003, formally issued on 9 December 2002.

Introduction by the Director of Operations

The present document outlines the operational trends and priorities identified by the ICRC for 2003. It is based on a comprehensive internal review and planning process, conducted first and foremost by the ICRC's 75 field delegations and missions. Planning for humanitarian activities is a difficult undertaking considering the volatile and often rapidly changing environments in which they take place. The ambitions laid out in the following pages reflect the ICRC's reading and understanding of the situation at the time of writing in early November 2002.

Development of conflict environments For an organization such as the ICRC, it is important at regular intervals to assess overall trends in the numerous conflict zones in which it operates. Such an assessment needs to look at developments both on a context-by-context basis and more globally. It needs to analyse the extent to which significant changes have occurred in the conflict environments over a given period of time. In addition, it should seek to identify whether such changes in any manner affect the way in which the ICRC will operate in the future.

The environment in which conflicts unfold today is more complex and less predictable than it was a year ago. The attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States have created a new pattern, in which the emergence of a unipolar world and of a variety of forms of resistance against it - including deliberate acts of terror - is the central feature. The complexity of the present-day environment could be described as characterized by the existence of overlapping layers of conflict. A first layer consists of the global fight against terrorism, which has taken on a variety of guises, such as an armed conflict in Afghanistan, police-type interventions in other contexts, or the imposition of sanctions.

A second layer is made up of a high number of pre-existing armed conflicts or situations of violence. Some of these are legacies of the Cold War (such as in Colombia, Angola and Afghanistan). Others erupted immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall and have their roots in the assertion of identity or religious affiliation (such as in the Caucasus, Balkans, Great Lakes, West Africa and Somalia). A third layer includes conflicts that are more recent and apparently unconnected to the more global trends (Nepal or Madagascar, for example). Noteworthy is the fact that the first layer has at times had a very direct impact on a range of pre-existing conflicts. Long, drawn-out wars, such as in Afghanistan, Angola and Sri Lanka, which 12 months ago were considered to have little prospect of a political or military settlement, saw significant improvement in 2002. Meanwhile, a series of other contexts experienced a distressing upsurge in violence, as was the case in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Northern Caucasus, Colombia, Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, for example. Implications for current ICRC operations One of the primary consequences of these developments for ICRC activities has been a rise in the number of detainees held for conflict or security reasons worldwide. During the first nine months of 2002, delegates visited 376,160 detainees in 1,566 places of detention in 75 countries. This compares with 340,000 detainees visited in 72 countries during the same period in 2001.

Furthermore, ICRC access to detainees improved in countries such as Algeria, Yemen, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Republic of the Congo and Côte d'Ivoire, among others.

As for the Afghan context, the ICRC has had broad access to persons detained, both in Afghanistan and, since January 2002, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In total, some 6,500 prisoners held by US or Afghan forces were visited (of whom some 600 were held at Guantanamo).

Another dimension of the changing environment has been a need to reassess some of the ICRC's networks of contacts. After the end of the Cold War, an intense effort to diversify these networks was undertaken.

Over the last 12 months, new trends have appeared, which require the organization to adapt again. Among them has been the visible emergence of a range of non-State actors, some of which have a global reach and, increasingly, a strategic capability. Some of these actors are linked up through networks that are difficult to define and approach.

In ICRC terms, limited options for dialogue with any party or actor involved in or influencing the course of a conflict or situation of violence can lead to difficulties in gaining access to the people affected, in addressing possible problems of perception and in ensuring the security of its staff.

Key challenges for the ICRC in 2003 Adapting to the changing environment Armed conflicts are becoming increasingly interrelated. Means of warfare are evolving. Actors involved in conflict are changing and their numbers proliferating. A new type of non-State actor has emerged, in some contexts characterized by uncertain chains of command, in others by their clandestine nature.

In view of the specific mandate that the ICRC has been given by the community of States, which is to protect and assist victims of armed conflict and internal violence, a particularly important task will be to improve the organization's capacity to analyse global trends in conflict, in addition to carrying out context-based assessments. The ICRC has an explicit goal to act in closest proximity to victims of armed conflict and internal violence. This cannot be envisaged without a solid and systematic philosophy of dialogue with all parties and actors in a given conflict. Indeed, proximity to victims cannot be attained without a guarantee of security for its staff, and this depends most notably on an ability to achieve the broadest possible understanding of the ICRC's principles, in particular its independence, its working methods and mandate.

Defending universal action

In an apparently unipolar world, the ICRC faces a challenge related to the identity it projects. The organization will in years ahead continue to be perceived as mainly Western. And yet, its ambition has always been, and will remain, to act universally. This is reflected in the diversity of contexts, a majority of which are volatile and dangerous, in which the ICRC is present and active today.

The ICRC has demonstrated an ability to operate in the most diverse political and cultural environments, but further progress is needed to achieve not only proximity to populations affected by conflict, but also an effective anchoring of the ICRC's presence in the different contexts where it operates. This will imply developing better local networks, ensuring longer assignments for staff in given regions, more systematic and better integration of national staff, and effective partnerships with the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the countries concerned.

Protection as the central priority

Protection activities are traditionally the most difficult to implement. One is rarely welcome anywhere when raising problems found in places of detention or when intervening in situations where the civilian population has been subjected to violations of international humanitarian law (IHL).

Yet, the need for and challenge of protection will in all likelihood continue to grow. This will require a renewed effort on the part of the ICRC to clarify its priorities and operational guidelines in a number of fields, notably protection of the civilian population. In this regard, possible new approaches will be examined. The work done in 2002 to establish revised operating principles to shed light on the fate of missing persons, which has involved broad consultations with a range of external experts and stakeholders, will serve as a reference in terms of methodology.

A challenge to IHL

One of the many consequences of the 11 September attacks has been a manifold challenge to international law. One dimension thereof has been the debate about the relevance of IHL and suggestions in some academic and governmental circles that its provisions no longer live up to the reality of today's conflict trends, notably the fight against terrorism.

Interestingly, the intensity of discussions signals the importance attached to this body of international law and to its implementation. From an operational point of view, it is important to state unambiguously that IHL is very much alive and continues to provide the essential backbone for the tangible work that ICRC staff are carrying out daily in dozens of countries worldwide.

Were it not for the provisions contained in IHL and for the stubborn determination to see them upheld in the remotest corners of the globe, the situation for many men, women and children would doubtless be far more desperate than it already is.

This explains why the ICRC will firmly oppose any attempt at revisiting the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, in view of the real risk of seeing their provisions weakened. On the other hand, the ICRC must reflect upon possible initiatives to strengthen implementation of IHL, achieve better clarification of its provisions and explore possible areas of its development. In keeping with its role and practice, the ICRC will seek a leading role in this process.

A challenge to the legitimacy of humanitarian action

The legitimacy of humanitarian action has traditionally been based on the principle of humanity and the existence of a mandate entrusted to the ICRC by the community of States. One may anticipate a gradual change of perception in this regard and the emergence of a situation where the victims themselves will increasingly question operational decisions made on their behalf.

While the ICRC's mandate will remain critical, the effectiveness and pertinence of choices made and activities carried out will come under greater scrutiny.

This will require an improved capacity to integrate the perception that victims have of their own needs into the planning and evaluation of ICRC activities. It will further require a better ability to explain choices and activities to donors, decision-makers and the general public. In other words: the ICRC must develop coherent and user-friendly operational communications.

Operational priorities in 2003

At the heart of the ICRC's operational philosophy in 2003, as in previous years, will be to act in closest proximity to persons affected by armed conflict and situations of internal violence.

The present document submits to your attention an initial appeal for 788.8 million Swiss francs to cover ICRC activities in 2003.

At the regional level, it should be stressed that Africa will again represent the lion's share of the ICRC's operational commitment, with a budget of over 300 million Swiss francs.

The ten largest operations worldwide will be: Afghan operation (89.6 million Swiss francs), Israel and the Occupied Territories and the Autonomous Territories (71.2 million Swiss francs), Moscow Regional Delegation (47.5 million Swiss francs), Democratic Republic of the Congo (46.4 million Swiss francs), Sudan (46.1 million Swiss francs), Colombia (34.8 million Swiss francs), Rwanda (27.4 million Swiss francs), Angola (26.4 million Swiss francs), Ethiopia (26.1 million Swiss francs) and Somalia (23.4 million Swiss francs).

At a context level, some of the noteworthy changes are:

The main budget increases:

  • Liberia: the upsurge in violence and instability witnessed in the course of 2002, and which led the ICRC to launch a budget extension appeal, is expected to persist. This explains a rise in the activities planned for 2003 (21.1 million Swiss francs, up from 13.0 in 2002). The primary focus will rest on assistance programmes for internally displaced people (IDPs), support to health facilities, and programmes to restore family links.

  • Côte d'Ivoire: the outbreak of tension and fighting in one of Africa's pillars of stability took many observers by surprise, and the exact nature of the dispute between the government and rebels remains uncertain. Despite ongoing diplomatic efforts to overcome differences, there is a sense that the crisis could last well into 2003, leading the ICRC to plan an increase in terms of activities (corresponding to an approximate increase of 3.5 million). Protection activities and assistance to IDPs will feature prominently in a context which provides an interesting example of the usefulness of a regional delegation, which was transformed from one day to the next into a fully operational set-up benefiting from a network of contacts built up over years.

  • Myanmar: despite improvements in the national political dialogue, the country is likely to continue to experience instability and violence in a number of areas. Ongoing developments in the dialogue with the authorities, in particular in the fields of detention and protection of the civilian population, explain a modest increase in the ICRC budget (12.9 million Swiss francs, up from 10.7 in 2002).

  • Colombia: following the breakdown of peace talks in early 2002, the country saw a serious increase in tension and violence, leading to a rise in the number of IDPs, among other things. The ICRC launched a budget extension appeal in 2002 to respond to the increase in needs. The trend is expected to last into 2003, and the ICRC has anticipated further growth in activities (34.8 million Swiss francs, up from 31.8 in 2002).
The main budget decreases:
  • Afghanistan: while remaining the largest single ICRC operation, this context is also the one to experience the most significant reduction in budgetary terms (89.6 million Swiss francs, down from 151.6 in 2002). The ICRC is well placed to describe the improvements that have occurred over the past 12 months, in particular in the field of security, although an underlying fragility persists. Improved food security has led to a decision to reduce relief activities, meaning that in 2003, the focus will be set strongly on protection activities, assistance and rehabilitation in the medical field and ongoing commitments in the field of prosthetics/ orthotics.

  • Sri Lanka: the positive political dynamic and the prospects generated by the peace negotiations will lead to a reduction of ICRC activities in 2003 (10.2 million Swiss francs, down from 18.5 in 2002). Assistance programmes will be reduced, alongside those on behalf of detainees. An important investment will, however, be made in clarifying the fate of missing persons.

  • Sierra Leone: progress towards peace in Sierra Leone is one of Africa's success stories, with a lasting stability anticipated for 2003, in large part owing to the sizeable presence of UNAMSIL. For the ICRC, this has meant a scaling down of activities (8.5 million Swiss francs, down from 24.6 in 2002). While assistance programmes will be reduced, the emphasis will be placed on protection activities, in particular the restoration of family links.

  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: despite the unresolved question of the status of Kosovo, the country remains set on a path towards stability, thereby enabling the ICRC to decrease its activities (21.0 million Swiss francs, down from 28.7 in 2002). Assistance programmes for IDPs from Kosovo will be discontinued in March 2003, and the search for information on the fate or whereabouts of persons unaccounted for will be the central challenge for the delegation.
It should further be noted that:
  • The planning for Iraq as outlined in the present document is based on a scenario of continuity (21.8 million Swiss francs), in other words, focusing on dealing with the lasting consequences of the Iran/Iraq war, the 1991 Gulf war and the sanctions regime. In the event of an escalation of tension and/or of international military action against Iraq in late 2002 or early 2003, a budget extension appeal will be launched.
At the programme level, particular attention will be placed on:
  • Protection: these activities will be placed very much at the centre of the ICRC's operational approach, with a particular emphasis on protection of the civilian population, restoring family links and clarifying the fate of missing persons. Special attention will be given to the particular needs of women and children in armed conflict.

  • Assistance: the "integrated" approach combining health, relief, water and sanitation programmes will be maintained, while a comprehensive review of the assistance policy of the ICRC will be carried out.

  • Preventive action: the ICRC will concentrate its prevention programmes in particular on efforts to achieve a better implementation of the rules of IHL, while taking part in the debate on the relevance of this body of international law.

  • Cooperation: working in close partnership with the other components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, namely with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the National Societies, will remain a priority, in particular in terms of building the capacities of National Societies.

Making a difference for persons affected by conflict requires careful planning and implementation of protection and assistance activities. It also requires diplomatic and financial support from donors and the community of States at large, something the present document seeks to secure. This is an appropriate opportunity to thank our donors for the timeliness and quality of the funding obtained in 2002 and to express the hope that this trend will be confirmed in 2003.

The objectives and financial requirements outlined herein represent, to the best of our knowledge, a realistic assessment of the humanitarian situation and needs in the contexts covered, bearing in mind that events in the course of the year may modify some of the estimations made.

The ICRC will ceaselessly advocate and act in favour of the preservation of an independent humanitarian space that allows impartial and effective protection of and assistance for people affected by war.

Pierre Krähenbühl
Director of Operations