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Overview of the ICRC's operations in 2006

Originally published


This document outlines the global operational priorities identified by the ICRC in 2006. It is based on the yearly internal review and planning process conducted primarily by the 80 field delegations and missions.
The following is an extract from the introduction by Pierre Krähenbühl, Director of Operations.

In this document, the ICRC presents its main operational trends and priorities for 2006. It reflects the organization's bottom-up approach, containing primarily the analysis, objectives and plans of action developed by the ICRC's 80 delegations and missions around the world. In this consolidated form, they represent the carefully considered and targeted responses to the needs identified by the ICRC at the time of writing in late October 2005.

Development of conflict environments

The year 2005 will be remembered for a series of catastrophic natural disasters: the tsunami in parts of Asia, drought in Niger, hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the United States, tropical storm Stan in Central America and the earthquake in Pakistan and India, to name the most devastating.

The year will also be remembered as a year of fewer active armed conflicts and for the declining intensity of hostilities in several contexts, despite news of repeated appalling acts of violence from places such as Iraq, Darfur (Sudan), northern Uganda, Somalia and Nepal.

Closer scrutiny of these developments suggests a shift in the nature of armed conflicts in general and of internal conflicts in particular. Internal conflicts and situations of internal violence make up the majority of cases today. Current internal conflicts are significantly different from those of the second half of the 20th century, which were mainly anti-colonial and national liberation struggles. They are also distinct from the nationality-driven upheavals that led to the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and from the conflicts in the Great Lakes of Africa region.

Many of today's conflicts are characterized by a crisis of legiti­macy reflecting the inherent fragility of many of the States involved, and by the multiplicity of local actors engaged in the hostilities representing a broad range of grievances. They include so-called "classic" conflicts between a government and one or more rebel groups, with mainly local causes and effects, and internal conflicts involving various opposition groups spurred by diverse motives and objectives stemming primarily from local issues which nevertheless have major regional and international implications and involvement.

In 2005, an ongoing confrontation of global dimensions between certain States and a highly decentralized and loosely connected range of non-State actors manifested itself in a number of deliberate acts of terror in various parts of the world. It also led to a combination of military/counter-terrorist operations and the introduction of anti-terrorist legislation in some countries. At the other end of the spectrum, highly localized forms of intercommunity feuds, often of a transnational nature, inflicted high levels of human suffering in some regions.

Economic factors continue to weigh heavily on conflict dynamics, with a range of State and private actors competing for access to markets and critical natural resources such as oil, while a variety of other actors indulge in various forms of economic rapaciousness. The reality in many countries in the throes of or emerging from conflict is the weakness - in some cases the generalized collapse - of public services such as health, water supply and social welfare, delaying recovery and making the transition from emergency to development strategies harder to achieve.

Globally, the evolution of armed conflicts has been affected by the widespread proliferation of weapons and by mass migra­tion from rural to urban settings, resulting in sprawling urban centres in many developing countries. This has contributed to an increase in new forms of urban violence, often blurring the distinction between political violence and criminality.

More encouragingly, a number of conflict situations have seen a marked improvement in terms of stabilization, containment or transition, often the result of international or regional peace-keeping efforts. However, while effectively ending or freezing the period of active hostilities and addressing some of the populations' most pressing security needs, such large-scale operations have stretched the resources of the international community. Furthermore, they often take place in contexts of great socio-economic instability which experience slow and often lengthy processes of demobilization, reintegration and reconciliation. This has resulted in delayed development, per­sistent insecurity, rising criminality and increased hardship for the populations concerned.

Experience shows that while today's conflicts generally result in lower direct casualty rates than in previous decades, the number of indirect victims is very high. Moreover, current conflicts and situations of violence tend to last longer, while protracted transition periods often produce little concerted action to address the underlying causes of the conflict, making a renewal of hostilities possible in several contexts.

Many of the features of current armed conflicts described above have existed for some time, while others are more recent. In today's world, it is the interconnection between many of these factors, both local and global, that has complicated the analysis of specific situations and the formulation of appro­priate responses. The overriding challenge ahead is to address the multiple needs of populations affected by extremely diverse situations of conflict and violence, and to respond rapidly and effectively to new emergencies.

Implications for current ICRC operations

In 2005, the ICRC confirmed its worldwide reach and was operational in numerous conflict zones. Among the most notable achievements during the year were an ambitious and multifaceted operation in Darfur and major humanitarian programmes in northern Uganda, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire and an increasingly unstable Somalia. The ICRC also pursued its wide-ranging humanitarian commitments in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar, the northern Caucasus, Colombia, Haiti and many other contexts.

The ICRC, alongside its Movement partners, mounted large-scale operations in response to two major natural disasters - the Asian tsunami on 26 December 2004 and the earthquake in South Asia on 8 October 2005. It also continued to fulfil the lead role for the Movement's action in regions affected by con­flict, or politically and militarily unstable.

As in previous years, ICRC field operations addressed diverse needs and situations. Visits to detainees took place in around 80 different countries across the globe. New agreements on access to places of detention were reached with the authorities in Tunisia and Mauritania. Tracing and family links services proved critical both in acute emergencies, such as in the after­maths of the tsunami and hurricane Katrina, and in dealing with the lasting consequences of war or with the demobilization and reintegration process in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and countries of West Africa. Strategies combining protection and assistance activities were implemented on behalf of civilians affected by conflict and violence. These included programmes for internally displaced people in northern Uganda, Liberia, Colombia, Nepal and elsewhere. In other contexts such as Darfur, the ICRC set its priority on assisting and protecting the resident population in remote areas.

The ICRC also broadened its capacity to respond more effec­tively to the specific needs of women and young girls. An integrated response to the problem of sexual violence, com­bining medical treatment, community-based counselling and protection and prevention measures for victims, was intro­duced in the DRC. Similar programmes were implemented in, among other places, Algeria, Burundi, Liberia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Its acceptance by all actors, proximity to the victims of armed conflict and the security of its staff remained central to the ICRC's ability to operate. From a security point of view, 2005 was again a difficult year with the loss of two colleagues, one Iraqi and one Haitian. The ICRC is also still without news of two of its staff members, one who went missing in South Africa in 2001 and the other in Chechnya in 2003. In general, the ICRC continued to work in highly complex and volatile environments such as Iraq, where it has adopted a specific security-management approach enabling it to carry out a number of important activities, notably visits to detainees.

The risk of rejection by certain parties who challenge the legitimacy of humanitarian action, or of the instrumentalization of humanitarian action by others, is ever present. Faced with this problem, the ICRC strove to demonstrate the specific advantages of its neutral and independent approach through its opera­tional decisions and field strategies. Progress was made in efforts to deepen dialogue with the Muslim world, primarily with civil society representatives, religious circles and radical groups.

In parallel, the ICRC gave precedence to the maintenance of bilateral and confidential dialogue with influential State actors. The opening of a delegation in Beijing in 2005 repre­sents a major achievement in this regard and underlined the commitment of China and the ICRC to strengthen relations and operational cooperation.

The ICRC pursued efforts to promote and demonstrate the relevance of IHL in contemporary forms of armed conflict. More critically, it sought to ensure respect for IHL by the par­ties engaged in armed conflict.

The year 2005 was also marked by important debates on the future of the humanitarian sector, in particular in the context of the UN reform process. The ICRC opted for active engagement in the consultative phase, specifically within the framework of the Humanitarian Response Review and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Principals' meetings and working groups.

The ICRC sees a number of benefits in efforts to improve the UN humanitarian response capacity. It nevertheless also opted for a strong affirmation of its own identity and a reassertion of the distinct benefits of its specific neutral and independent operational approach. At the same time, it has formulated a pro-active and reality-based set of guidelines on humanitarian coordination, both institutionally and in the field.

Key challenges for the ICRC in 2006

Developing a universal and professional humanitarian response to needs in times of armed conflict and violence

It remains crucial for the ICRC to respond to needs that arise in the full spectrum of conflict situations in the world. This implies an ability to act rapidly and effectively in instances of acute crisis (e.g. in Sudan, or after the Asian tsunami, or the earth­quake in South Asia). In this respect, the ICRC is determined to make optimum use of its specific expertise and added-value, based on a structured and constantly updated early-warning, rapid-response and rapid-learning capacity. Equally central is the capacity to sustain longer-term commitments in chronic crises, early transitional phases or situations of violence that attract little or no attention.

A professional humanitarian response means several things. First and foremost, it implies concern for people, concern for their individual dignity and sensitivity when addressing their most urgent needs. Acting in proximity to the victims of armed conflicts - men, women and children who have borne the brunt of arbitrary violence and who have endured great suffering - implies concern for quality and meaningful humanitarian action to assist and protect them.

Second, the ability to fulfil its humanitarian tasks implies having qualified staff - national and international, generalists and specialists - who are familiar with and who understand the different contexts in which they work. Humanitarian workers require special qualities such as sensitivity to cultural differences, curiosity, the ability to listen and a desire to find solutions to even the most intractable problems in highly complex environments.

Third, implementing effective humanitarian responses means investing and developing the ICRC's capacities in specific fields of expertise to ensure future relevance. In 2006-07, the ICRC will reinforce its protection activities, in particular with regard to detention-related and tracing work, through field tests, staff development and supplementary resources.

Lastly, a professional humanitarian response implies an ability to integrate various activities, such as protection and assistance, or protection and prevention, based on an all-victims approach and a multifaceted and intelligent response to specific needs, such as those of women and girls or internally displaced people.

Focusing on operational and security management

The ICRC's operational philosophy - acting in the closest pos­sible proximity to those in need - requires a commitment to develop and maintain a broad network of staff in the different contexts in which it works and a highly decentralized security-management concept. It also demands a shared recognition of the risks involved in the current diversified and often unpredictable environments.

What used to involve primarily contacts and dialogue with official armed and security forces on the one hand and fairly structured rebel or opposition movements on the other hand, today requires approaching a diversity of non-State actors from political to criminal, some with initially clear chains of command, but which later splinter into multiple sub-groups or clans with shifting agendas. It also means dealing with a broad spectrum of parties, ranging from powerful conventional armies to radical armed groups or urban gangs. Learning to adapt to and work with this diversity is crucial.

Safeguarding the essence of neutral and independent humanitarian action

The humanitarian environment and community have experi­enced significant changes in recent years. The process of inte­grating crisis-management responses - combining political, military, social and humanitarian objectives and activities - has continued and is an inherent feature of many contexts today. This has taken the form of integrated - or multi­disciplinary - UN missions or stabilization or enforcement campaigns led by one or more States.

This trend is likely to persist and the ICRC has stated unam­biguously that, while continuing to coordinate with all humanitarian actors concerned, it cannot be part of such inte­grated approaches. The reason is straightforward: the mandate the ICRC was given by the international community entails a responsibility to act in all situations of armed conflict and vio­lence. Such situations are by definition highly sensitive and to fulfil its role, the ICRC needs to build acceptance by and seek dialogue with all actors influencing or directly involved in a given conflict, however complex it may appear to be. To do so, it must be - and be seen to be - neutral and independent. Neutrality must be understood here as a deliberate decision not to take sides in a conflict and to keep its action distinct from the political or military agenda of any one actor. By the same token, the ICRC will continue to attach the greatest importance to bilateral and confidential dialogue in the conduct of its operations.

This approach does not mean that the ICRC believes that there is only one definition of humanitarian action. It does, however, want its own approach and action to be clearly understood as separate and accepted for its distinct added value in all situations of armed conflict, whether acute, chronic or in transition.

Investing in partnerships and coordination

That said, the ICRC will pursue its efforts to coordinate with other humanitarian agencies in a proactive manner based on its actual capacity to deliver humanitarian services.

ICRC teams in the field and units at headquarters spend sig­nificant amounts of time in consultation and coordination with other organizations operating in the same contexts and sharing similar objectives. For example, they participate when­ever possible in UN general, specific or thematic coordination meetings to increase the effectiveness and ensure the comple­mentarity of responses to humanitarian needs. They also liaise with the UN regarding the Consolidated Appeals process. The ICRC will continue to identify operational and institutional partnerships with other components of the Movement, the UN and its specialized agencies and NGOs.

Operational priorities in 2006

The core focus of the ICRC in 2006 will be to act in close proximity to people affected by armed conflicts and internal violence and provide them, to the best of its ability, with a meaningful humanitarian response to their plight. The ICRC will seek to act rapidly and efficiently, taking into account the diverse nature of the situations and the needs involved.

The present document submits to your attention an initial appeal for CHF 895.3 million to cover ICRC field activities in 2006.

The ten largest operations worldwide will be: Sudan (CHF 127.6 million), Pakistan (CHF 97.1 million), Israel, the Occupied and the Autonomous Territories (CHF 42.8 million), Afghanistan (CHF 39.1 million), Iraq (CHF 38.3 million), Moscow regional delegation (CHF 34.0 million), Democratic Republic of the Congo (CHF 29.6 million), Liberia (CHF 27.3 million), Ethiopia (CHF 26.2 million) and Somalia (CHF 26.1 million).

Notable features

A central feature of the ICRC's 2006 budget is the confirmation of a broad operational commitment and range of activities. The size of the initial budget, which represents a CHF 76 million increase over the initial 2005 budget, is explained by large-scale operations in countries where the ICRC has demonstrated a specific added-value and by the increase in the budget for Pakistan following the earthquake (CHF 97.1 million).

For a second consecutive year, the planned expenditure for Africa is in excess of CHF 385.2 million. The continent has again experienced a number of significant developments over the past 12 months, both positive and negative. There have been constructive political processes leading to elections and greater stability in Burundi and Liberia, and a marked reduction in the intensity of violence in Angola and southern Sudan. At the same time, the situation has remained very preoccupying in Darfur, northern Uganda, eastern DRC, Somalia and Côte d'Ivoire.

Whether in contexts where there is open conflict or in countries in transition, there are multiple needs to be addressed, which explains the scale of ICRC mobilization. Sudan alone accounts for one third of the Africa budget, with the ICRC seeking to con­solidate the operational capacity it has built up in Darfur. Similarly, the ICRC has maintained an extensive involvement in northern Uganda (CHF 20.8 million). In Somalia (CHF 26.1 million), where the population in the central and southern parts of the country is experiencing high levels of violence and suffering, the ICRC has reinforced its operation for 2006. It has also stepped up preparation for and increased resources to deal with the uncertainty in Côte d'Ivoire (CHF 22.5 million).

The budget for Rwanda (CHF 10.4 million) reflects a further decrease over last year as a result of the successful implemen­tation of an exit strategy in the area of food assistance in prisons.

The Asia budget has increased significantly, rising to CHF 231.2 million. The ICRC's response to the devastating impact of the earthquake in South Asia explains this high level of planned expenditure. This response takes place within the framework of an agreement between the ICRC and the International Federation under which the ICRC has assumed the lead role for the Movement in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Helping the affected population through the very difficult winter months will be the ICRC's main priority in this context.

The ICRC's operation in Afghanistan, where levels of violence have risen in some parts of the country, remains substantial despite a decrease in the budget (CHF 39.1 million). The focus will remain on detention-related activities, as well as on medical and physical rehabilitation programmes. The budget for Nepal, where the ICRC runs wide-ranging protection programmes, has seen a slight increase (CHF 11.0 million). Myanmar, too, will remain a sizeable operation (CHF 14.5 million).

The response to the effects of the tsunami in Indonesia (CHF 11.8 million) and Sri Lanka (CHF 15.6 million) has moved beyond the emergency phase and into early recovery. The ICRC has therefore significantly reduced its tsunami-related activities in these two countries, although it still provides operational coordination for the Movement in the regions of these countries that were until recently or still are affected by conflict or violence, where it now focuses on its own traditional fields of activity.

The Middle East has a lower initial budget for 2006, standing at CHF 102.7 million. This decrease reflects a lower level of planned expenditure in Iraq, taking into account the reduced range of activities decided on after the killing of an ICRC staff member in Baghdad in January 2005. It is important to note that the CHF 38.3 million budget for Iraq in 2006 is indicative of the ICRC's will to achieve the best possible impact there, despite the security risks involved.

The budget for Israel, the Occupied and the Autonomous Territories has decreased (CHF 42.8 million), in light of the Israeli disengagement from Gaza. Nevertheless, the ICRC will keep up its protection activities covering detention visits, family visits to detainees and monitoring compliance with IHL, as well as its various assistance programmes for the Palestinian population.

The Europe and Americas budget is slightly lower than in pre­vious years (CHF 133.6 million). Operations in the northern Caucasus remain significant (CHF 34.0 million), while Colombia sees a budget reduction (CHF 24.7 million), reflecting a decrease in population displacements. Haiti continues to be a complex operation (CHF 4.9 million), not least because of the unpredictable security environment.

Operations in the southern Caucasus and the Balkans have been further adapted, or downsized, following the successful implementation of handover or exit strategies.


The 2006 Emergency Appeals reflect the ICRC's renewed com­mitment to effective operational responses. Achieving the objectives outlined in this document requires creativity and determination on the part of ICRC staff. It requires acceptance and understanding of the ICRC's mandate and activities on the part of a multiplicity of stakeholders. It also requires criti­cal diplomatic support from donors, National Societies and the private sector.

The ICRC is immensely grateful for the support and confi­dence of donors it enjoyed in 2005. The donor community's generosity and trust played a central role in enabling the ICRC to fulfil its responsibilities. In return, the ICRC has invested in a range of activities, from reporting to evaluations, to improve feedback to donors and to ensure a high level of transparency on how it makes its decisions and uses the funds received.

This document aims to present the ICRC's realistic assessments, objectives and financial requirements, taking into account that situations may change in the course of the coming year.

The ICRC is more than ever determined to act on behalf of people whose lives are disrupted by armed conflict and violence. In today's constantly evolving environment this is a daunting task.

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