ICRC Marks 160 Years, Says Work To Protect Civilians From Horrors Of Conflict Continues
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Buea (Cameroon) February 20 – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has marked its 160th year of life-saving relief assistance to millions of people around the world affected by armed conflicts.
With the rapid change noticed across the world, including the use of sophisticated weapons, civilians continue to bear the brunt of wars. From Syria to Yemen, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and even Cameroon, families have had to bury loved ones in their numbers.
“After 160 years of work, the International Committee of the Red Cross can say the world has made real progress to reduce civilian harm on the battlefield. Yet we still see massive suffering in conflicts today, meaning much more work remains to be done to reduce the pain and heartbreak,” said ICRC President Mirjana Spoljaric.
In his landmark book, “A Memory of Solferino,” Henry Dunant suggested creating relief national societies identified by a common emblem and an international treaty to protect the wounded on the battlefield. On 17 February 1863, this vision became a reality when a group of citizens from Geneva founded the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, which later became known as the International Committee of the Red Cross.
A little more than a year later on 22 August 1864, twelve States signed a treaty enshrining the obligation to spare and protect wounded soldiers and the people and equipment involved in their care, giving birth to the Geneva Conventions.
With a workforce of more than 21,000 people in 100 countries, the ICRC, alongside its partners within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, say they will continue their work to ensure that the neutral, impartial and independent nature of “our humanitarian activities are understood by all, even as new weapons and technologies continue to be introduced. Always on the side of humanity, the ICRC will also continue to advocate and insist on greater respect for international humanitarian law, which prohibits violence directed at people who are not involved in armed conflict.”
“Respect for international humanitarian law has been and will continue to be, the only way to preserve a minimum of humanity during the conflict. The laws of war must be elevated to a political priority,” ICRC President Mirjana Spoljaric