9/2010 The International Committee of the Red Cross and inter-agency interaction during armed conflict


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9/2010 The International Committee of the Red Cross and inter-agency interaction during armed conflict

  2. 2. Disclaimer:The views expressed in this Civil-Military Commentary/Civil Military Working Paper/Civil-Military Occasional Paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflectthe position of APCMCOE or of any government agency. Authors enjoy the academicfreedom to offer new and sometimes controversial perspectives in the interest offurthering debate on key issues.The content is published under a Creative Commons by Attribution 3.0 Australia(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/au/) licence. All parts of this publicationmay be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, and transmitted by any means withoutthe written permission of the publisher.ISBN: 978-1-921933-08-0Published 2011.CIVIL-MILLITARY WORKING PAPERS ii
  3. 3. ABSTRACT Independent humanitarian organisations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other organisations working in countries affected by conflict, often have defined roles in the international architecture and mandates under international law to carry out their activities. Recognising the primary role of the host nation to provide for the humanitarian and other needs of its population, independent humanitarian organisations, operating outside of international coalition or integrated mission structures, play an important role in filling the gaps in areas where these needs are not being met, whether this is due to the conflict, a lack of capacity or political will of the host government, or for other reasons. These humanitarian activities, which range from emergency humanitarian assistance, to longer term development and reconstruction activities, including reform of legal and government structures, also contribute significantly to the establishment of peace and longer term stability of the affected country. Key Words: ICRC, independent humanitarian mandate, operating outside integrated missions, contributing to peace and stability Larry Maybee Larry Maybee is currently the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Delegate to Armed and Security Forces for South East Asia and the Pacific. In this position he is responsible for the development of relations with the Armed Forces of countries in the region, as well as US Pacific Command. Mr. Maybee’s previous positions with the ICRC include head of the Legal Department for the ICRC delegation in Israel and the Occupied Territories, Legal Advisor for ICRC operations in Iraq, and Regional Legal Advisor for South Asia, based in New Delhi. Larry joined the ICRC in 2004 following a 26-year career as a military officer, in the Canadian and New Zealand Defence Forces. Maybee has a Bachelor of Business Administration and Economics Degree (BBA), from the University of New Brunswick, Canada; a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB), also from the University of New Brunswick; and a Master of Laws Degree (LLM) in International Law from the University of Melbourne, Australia.The International Committee of the Red Cross and Inter-Agency Interaction During Armed Conflict 1
  4. 4. INTRODUCTIONThere will inevitably be overlap between the activities of independent humanitarian organisations, such as theInternational Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and integrated international coalitions – whether mandatedby the United Nations or otherwise – that are deployed into conflict affected countries. The mandates ofthese international integrated missions routinely cover areas that have traditionally been the responsibilityof the humanitarian sector. Integrated missions typically include components within their structures withresponsibility to work in the humanitarian assistance and development sectors. However, international,coalition-driven missions often have specific timelines, political imperatives and specific, realistic objectivesand tasks. Interaction and coordination between the international coalition and its integrated componentsand humanitarian actors operating independently in the context is critical. It is, however, important thatindependent actors are not only able to work in parallel to specific missions, but that they emerge unaffectedin terms of their relations, integrity and capacity to continue with the nation’s structures after such missionshave departed the mission area.THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSSThe International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been given a unique mandate by the internationalcommunity to operate in situations of armed conflict. This mandate is derived principally from the 1949Geneva Conventions and their two Additional Protocols of 1977. The ICRC is provided with further guidancein carrying out its mandate through resolutions of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, which are adoptedat the International Conferences of States Parties to the Geneva Conventions, convened every four years.The ICRC has an exclusively humanitarian mission: “to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internalviolence and to provide them with assistance.” In fulfilling this mission, it conducts a broad range of activities,including inter alia: visiting prisoners of war, civilian interness and other persons detained in relation to armedconflict; providing emergency assistance to victims caught up in armed conflict; evacuating civilians and warwounded from conflict-affected areas; promoting and monitoring respect for international humanitarian law(IHL) during the conduct of hostilities; and working towards the development and faithful application of IHLrules and principles, generally.The ICRC conducts its activities according to certain fundamental principles, which it shares with the othercomponents of the Red Cross/Red Crescent (RC/RC) Movement (i.e. the National RC/RC Societies and theInternational Federation of the RC/RC). The three most important of these principles, from an operationalperspective, are: (1) neutrality; (2) independence; and (3) imartiality. These principles reinforce the strictlyhumanitarian nature of its mission and impose limitations on the relationships the ICRC develops withgovernments, military forces and other international and humanitarian organisations.CIVIL-MILLITARY WORKING PAPERS 2
  5. 5. THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS (Continued)To be effective during armed conflicts, the ICRC needs to operate in close proximity to the victims it strivesto protect and assist. Access to these victims depends upon the ability of ICRC delegates to travel freely andin relative security to all areas of a conflict. In order to do this this, the ICRC, its mandate and operationalactivites must be accepted and respected by all parties/sides to the conflict, and the local population.Acceptance is critical to the success of its mission and requires the ICRC to establish contact and ongoingdialogue with all sides/parties/armed groups operating in these areas, to gain their trust and confidence. Toaccomplish, the ICRC must have the ability to operate independently of and be seen to be neutral from, allsides in an armed copnflict. It cannot be perceived to be taking sides in a conflict, supporting a particular sideor pursuing a political agenda; this is at the very core of ICRC operations.A long history of experience in conflicts around the globe has shown that strict adherence to the principlesof neutrality, independence and impartiality provides the ICRC with acceptance by the belligerents/parties,which in turn translates into safe access to the areas under their control (or where they are operating) so thatassistance can be provided to the conflict victims in these areas. As a practical matter – for reasons of security– the ICRC practice is not go into an area unless contact is establishd and security assurances obtained fromfrom all relevant parties/organisations/groups in the area.ICRC’s GUIDELINES ON CIVIL-MILITARY RELATIONS 2A relationship with armed forces is natural for an organization like the ICRC that works in situations of armedconflict. The ICRC recognises that the strategies and actions of the armed forces will have a critical impact onhumanitarian action in situations of armed conflict. Regular contact and ongoing dialogue with military forcesand armed groups is, therefore, a necessary and important feature of the ICRC’s operations around the world.Following the end of the cold war in the 1990’s certain trends emerged, which raised several concerns forhumanitarian agencies, including the ICRC. These trends continued in the decade following the events of 9/11,during the so-called War on Terror, and the concerns associated with them have been highlighted by theconflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of the significant trends are discussed below.Expanding roles for the militaryThe 1990’s saw the emergence of new and expanded roles for the armed forces. Governments beganassigning their armed forces a role in humanitarian activities, given them responibility to respond to naturaldisasters, both domestically and abroad in third countries to provide humanitarian relief. Armed forcesdeployed under UN and other mandates are now routinely given responsibilities outside their tradionalareas, and now routinely include responsibility for the protection of the civilian population and providinghumanitarian assistance to the civilian population. These expanded responsibilities can blur the linesbetween military forces and humanitarian actors, and cause confusion in the eyes of the civilian population.The situation is made worse when military forces are deployed in situations where there are tensions orongoing armed conflict. The overlapping roles and activities of the military and humanitarian actors in thesecircumstances threaten the perception of neutral, independent humanitarian action and challenge the conceptof ‘humanitarian space’.The International Committee of the Red Cross and Inter-Agency Interaction During Armed Conflict 3
  6. 6. Comprehensive or ‘Whole of Government” (WOG) approaches to conflict managementThe experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq have taught that conflicts cannot be won with military force alone;they have reinforced the need to combine all means at a government’s disposal – political, economic,military, development and humanitarian assistance – to achieve stabilisation. Multinational forces nowregularly assume roles that go beyond providing security or engaging in combat, raising several concerns forhumanitarian actors. Armed forces are increasingly active in roles typically filled by civilians. The distinctionbetween humanitarian, political and military action becomes blurred when armed forces are perceived to behumanitarians, when civilians are embedded into military structures. There is a further risk that humanitarianaction becomes subordinated to political and military action, creating the perception that humanitarian actorsare merely tools within integrated approaches to conflict management (i.e. integrated political-military-humanitarian missions).Development of Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC)/Civil Affairs (CA)3 military doctrinesAlthough the practice of ‘winning hearts and minds’ is not new, CIMIC/CA doctrines have seen dramaticdevelopment in recent years. Today’s CIMIC/CA doctrines are effectively an extension of the comprehensiveWOG approach. Iraq and Afghanistan have reinforced the general trend of armed forces to add humanitarianassistance to their range of tools for winning the hearts and minds, or rewarding the cooperation of the civilianpopulation. Providing assistance to the civilian population, or influencing the humanitarian and reconstructionefforts of others, is considered as a means of “force multiplication” or “force protection”. This risks thesubordination of humanitarian assistance to military and political objectives. The assumption of a ‘commongoal’ also damages the perception of humanitarian agencies who subscribe to a policy of neutral, independenthumanitarian action (NIHA).Afghanistan and Iraq as the benchmark for future conflictsThe conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate the risks associated with the ‘comprehensive/integrated’approach. The ICRC believes that, based on the lessons learned in these conflicts, political and militarydecision makers will pursue an even greater convergence of political and military action in future conflicts/operations. This presents an ongoing challenges for humanitarian actors like the ICRC, to preserve neutral,independent, humanitarian space, avoid being instrumentalised and manage perception issues.The ICRC Guidelines on Civil-Military Relations (CMR) were developed in 2001, to address these concernsand the potential threats they posed to the ICRC’s humanitarian action. The CMR Guidelines have beenreviewed and validated periodically, most recently to take into account the lessons learned from Iraq andAfghanistan. The CMR Guidelines includes the following main features:AimThe aim of establishing a structured dialogue between the ICRC and military forces is to ensure the safetyof its staff and the recipient (civilian) populations, and to preserve the impartiality and most efficient use ofavailable resources during the ICRC’s humanitarian action. The ICRC insists, however, that this engagementwith military actors should not affect independent decision-making of humanitarian actors and should respecthumanitarian principles.4CIVIL-MILLITARY WORKING PAPERS 4
  7. 7. FrameworkThe Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (RC/RC) Movement, along with the relevant(applicable) provisions of international humanitarian law, provide the general framework for defining the natureand scope of the ICRC-military relationship.Relations within the International RC/RC MovementWithin the International RC/RC Movement, the ICRC seeks to exercise leadership regarding the policy andoperational aspects of CMR in armed conflict. In particular, it provides clear directives for the relationshipbetween National RC/RC Societies working as “Participating National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies”(i.e. contributing to a RC/RC operation on foreign soil) and the military contingents of their respectivecountries. Should such a relationship be problematic in terms of respect for the RC/RC Movement’sfundamental principles, appropriate action will be taken by the ICRC, in accordance with the Movement’sStatutes and the Seville Agreement.Key conceptsIn its dialogue with military authorities, the ICRC will seek to provide the military authorities with a betterunderstanding of the importance the ICRC attaches to the following key concepts:• The objective of ICRCs humanitarian action is not to settle conflicts (or pursue a political agenda) but to save lives and protect human dignity. The ICRC humanitarian activities cannot in any way be subordinated to political and/or military objectives and considerations.• There must be a clear distinction between the roles of the respective (humanitarian and military) actors in armed conflict. In this regard, the primary objective of the military should be, in the ICRCs view, to establish and maintain security and to facilitate a comprehensive settlement of the conflict.• The ICRC must maintain its independence of decision-making and action, while consulting closely with international military missions that are deployed in the same theatre of operations. There should be consultation at every stage, at both strategic and operational levels.Operational expectations of the ICRCIn its dialogue with the military, the ICRC seeks privileged access to and dialogue with, operationalcommanders at different levels (strategic, operational and tactical). The ICRC has clear expectations on whatit hopes to achieve through its relationship with the military in situations of armed conflict. Although theemphasis will change depending on the specific context, the dialogue will generally include discussion on thefollowing specific issues of concern:• Access to victims in conflict-affected areas (protection and assistance);• Detention conducted by military forces and armed groups (notification and access);• Exchange of information (regarding security and the general situation);• Potential ICRC medical support and assistance to the civilian population, including the treatment of war wounded, according to need; and• ICRC’s mandate to conduct training of armed forces and disseminate IHL.The International Committee of the Red Cross and Inter-Agency Interaction During Armed Conflict 5
  8. 8. Limitations on cooperationThe ICRC’s position is limited by its fundamental principles – in particular the principles of Neutralityand Independence – which exclude closer cooperation with military forces or subordinating the ICRC’shumanitarian action to broader political goals in military interventions. The ICRC cannot be perceived to beassociated with, supporting or on the same side as the military – or armed opposition groups – in a conflict.Strategic dialogue with political and military policy-makersThe ICRC seeks to establish and maintain a dialogue with the political and military circles that formulate thepolicy for military intervention in emergencies arising from armed conflict. Particular attention is paid by theICRC to engaging with the relevant agencies and bodies of the United Nations, NATO, the European Unionand the African Union. The primary aim of this engagement is to promote the ICRC’s view of humanitarianaction and, where necessary, foster and maintain contacts useful for operational cooperation and forenhancing respect for IHL.Operational dialogue with military forcesThe ICRC also fosters operational contact with military forces, at different levels, with a view to exchangingrelevant information –subject to the constraints imposed by the principle of confidentiality. Where necessary,the ICRC assigns one or more persons to strategic and operational levell headquarters, to be in charge ofliaison with the military. Delegates in the field will also seek to establish contact with operational commanders,at the tactical level.Through this contact, the ICRC strives to avoid any ambiguity about its mandate and role, and tries to ensure,in particular, that military action does not impinge on the impartiality, neutrality and independence of its work.It further endeavours ensure that international humanitarian law is respected by military forces and armedgroups in operational contexts.Civil-Military Coordination (CIMIC), Civil Affairs (CA) and other coordination mechanismsThe ICRC may choose to participate in CIMIC/CA coordination mechanisms, depending on the context, andprovided it has a practical benefit for ICRC operations (i.e. to coordinate movement along routes, at portfacilities and airports). The ICRC is, however, concerned that these mechanisms and CIMIC/CA staff do notbecome obstacles to its operations, for example, by screening direct access to military commanders and theiroperational staff. It is worth noting that CIMIC/CA mechanisms have not been relevant to ICRC-militaryrelations in Iraq or Afghanistan.CIVIL-MILLITARY WORKING PAPERS 6
  9. 9. Use of military or civil defence assets (MCDA)As a general rule the ICRC does not use military or civil defence assets, or resort to armed protection for itsoperations, including relief convoys, as this sets a dangerous precedent. This rule may, however, be waived inexceptional circumstances, as a last resort. Where the ICRC does use MCDA, (for example, because they areoffered on conditions that provide a clear advantage or because comparable civilian assets are not available) itmakes sure their use will not jeopardise the organisation’s status as neutral and impartial and is in keeping withits operational strategy and principles.Protection of ICRC equipment and facilities by armed guardsThe ICRC may use armed guards to protect of its equipment and facilities by armed guards in situationswhere such protection is considered indispensable, for example, where criminality poses a serious threat.The impact of such arrangements must, however, be balanced against the perception of the ICRC’s neutrality,independence and impartiality in the context.The ICRC’s contribution to pre-deployment training and military exercisesThrough its participation in pre-deployment training for units participating in overseas missions, the ICRCestablishes contact with relevant military personnel. Through briefings and exercises the ICRC makes themaware of its mandate, presence and the scope of its operations in these contexts. These activities furtherprovides the ICRC with the opportunity to reinforce IHL obligations applicable to the deploying nation/force– including the obligation to facilitate and/or provide humanitarian relief to affected populations in conflictareas – and highlight operational lessons learned from ICRC-military relations in the context. To this end,it establishes and maintains organisation-to-organisation relations with military headquarters and trainingestablishments that prepare military and civilian personnel for such missions.The International Committee of the Red Cross and Inter-Agency Interaction During Armed Conflict 7
  10. 10. CONCLUSIONGenerally, the ICRC adopts the same approach to its relations with military forces worldwide, in differentsituations of humanitarian concern. As a practical matter, however, there is greater flexibility in situations thatdo not have the added elements of armed conflict or political violence, such as natural disasters. In thesesituations, the ICRC may be willing to share more information and work more closely in a coordinated manneralongside other actors, including military forces and United Nations agencies. However, the ICRC is mindfulthat seemingly benign situations can change quickly and dramatically; the organisation is, therefore, careful notto put itself in a situation which could compromise its independence or neutrality (or the perception thereof)for current or future operations. In situations of armed conflict, such as Afghanistan, the ICRC will adherestrictly to the NIIHA approach and be much less willing to work cooperatively with military forces, the UN,other government and/or humanitarian agencies.Endnotes1 This paper is the written version of the presentation given during the Civil-Military Seminar 2010 (the second annual) as part of the session on Civil-Military-Police Relations during Conflict: Approaches to the United Nations, Regional Organizations’, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement and the NGO Community. It is framed to fit the limited scope of the session and, as such, is not intended to represent a complete discussion of the ICRC’s policy on Civil-Military relations.2 The discussion in this section draws from two articles that provide a comprehensive discussion of the ICRC policy in this area: (1) The ICRC and civil-military relations in armed conflict, Meinrad Studer, International Review of the Red Cross (IRRC) June 2001 vol. 83 no 842; and (2) Contemporary challenges in the civil-military relationship: Complementarity or incompatibility?, Raj Rana, IRRC September 2004 vol. 86 no 855.3 The military terms Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC-NATO) and Civil Affairs (CA-US) refer to the doctrine and non-combat operations (including humanitarian and reconstruction assistance) conducted by armed forces in all contexts, including armed conflict. The ICRC has deliberately chosen the term Civil- Military Relations (CMR) to describe the relationship between humanitarian actors and multinational military missions in situations associated with armed conflict, and to distinguish such terms from military usage.4 See also the SCHR Position Paper on Humanitarian-Military Relations, 2009. The content of the SCHR Position Paper is consistent with the ICRC’s CMR Guidelines; however, the ICRC may go beyond them in a given context, according to its unique approach to humanitarian action.CIVIL-MILLITARY WORKING PAPERS 8