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Although there are many nongovernmental organizations in various areas of interest such as humanitarian ones, only a few of them have the reputation that ICRC has. Since its formation, this NGO has worked tirelessly to make sure that it ministers to victims of natural disasters and wars. The organization has gained popularity, and it is found in almost all countries in the world. In order to appreciate its efforts and learn more about this exceedingly successful institution, a detailed study of the International Committee of the Red Cross is necessary.
General Information about the International Committee of the Red Cross
ICRC or International Committee of the Red Cross is an international agency that is renowned for the role of protecting the dignity and lives of victims of wars and natural disasters through providing them with the necessary assistance. ICRC headquarters are in Switzerland’s capital, Geneva. The organization operates in more than 80 countries and has more than twelve thousand staff members all over the world. Unlike other international institutions, ICRC is known to work closely with the national societies for the good of humanity. It is a branch of the Red Crescent and the Red Cross Societies. The Red Crescent is a part of the ICRC that operates in the same way, but oversees similar operations in the Muslim countries.
The organization was formed in 1875 after a Swiss businessman known as Jean Henri had witnessed the killing in one of the battles known as the Battle of Solferino. It was a fight between Austrian and French forces in 1859. Henri observed that wounded soldiers did not have someone to care for them as they were left to die after the battle. He therefore came up with an organization that would look after the wounded after a conflict without bias. This means that the institution would care for soldiers from all sides of the battle. After his crusades, the businessman, who was also a writer, gained support from Geneva Society for Public Welfare.
ICRC is governed by a committee of 25 Swiss members. They are from Switzerland because of the nation’s longstanding neutrality towards the international conflicts. Besides, the organization was formed in this country. Just like the nation where the institution was founded, ICRC is known for its maintenance of neutrality. The latter is seen as a means to the end instead of being the way towards the end. As a result of this, the ICRC can act on behalf of all people without bias and positively influence those affected by violence and armed conflicts. The neutral nature of the organization helps it to deal with the relevant authorities in areas of struggle in order to stop it. In addition, the neutrality helps the committee to get to the largest possible amount of people who may require its support. To ascertain that this function is maintained, the ICRC does not need approval or any support from those authorities that are known for violating humanitarian laws (IFRC, 2012).
Principles of ICRC
As discussed earlier, ICRC is based on the principles of impartiality, neutrality, independence and mandate. Following the principle of impartiality, the institution does not discriminate against any nation, class, religious belief and political opinion when carrying out its activities. Instead, the NGO only endeavors to relieve suffering especially in the most urgent cases.
According to the principle of neutrality, the ICRC does not take sides in any hostility and does not engage in racial, political, ideological and religious controversies. By doing this, the NGO continues enjoying trust from all people and nations.
The principle of independence means that the organization maintains autonomy from any country in order to make sure that it acts in accordance with the principles set by the Red Cross Society. Lastly, the institution’s mandate is solely based on the international humanitarian laws especially the Geneva Conventions of 1949 together with the rest of the additional protocols.
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On top of these major principles, the organization is required to adapt to given realities. It has to adjust to the situation of the people it helps regardless of their problems that might include sickness, liberty deprivation or displacement. By doing this, the institution makes sure that its caring actions are impartial. In addition, following these principles makes it possible for the committee to access people in need who are the main reason of its existence (ISPO, 2014).
Roles of ICRC
As discussed earlier, ICRC helps victims of natural disasters and wars by giving them appropriate care. The organization directs and also coordinates international relief activities and movements. Moreover, it acts as a role model by paying attention to international humanitarian principles and laws during its operations. The NGO also helps internally displaced individuals by catering for them. In addition, the institution raises the awareness about explosives and mines that are left after the wars in order to keep people safe from these harmful items. Furthermore, the organization assists in tracing lost persons after natural disasters and wars. ICRC has also been given the permanent mandate by Geneva Conventions to organize relief, visit prisons and reunify those relatives that have been driven apart by natural disasters and wars. Apart from these activities, the organization also engages in other humanitarian work required in time of natural catastrophes and armed conflicts (Horvitz & Catherwood, 2006).
Challenges Faced by ICRC
Just like other nongovernmental organizations, there are many issues that ICRC faces. First of all, the institution has to deal with critics who question its ability to remain neutral during times of serious human rights violations. Thus, ensuring that the committee’s identity is perceived without any doubts still remains a challenge. In addition, maintaining the respect of all people is also a concern (Chevallaz, 2001). Apart from these problems, report has it that just like other people in the world ICRC committee members have also been affected by international conflicts such as terrorism and abductions. For example, some of them died when Iraq and Afghanistan were in war (Ward, 2013).