Geoff Loane is head of office for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Belfast. His responsibilities include ICRC activities in Northern Ireland and managing relations with the devolved government and a range of stakeholders. He came to Exeter on the 29th of April 2014 to give this talk on humanitarian action as a means of addressing issues and dilemmas which arise in conflict.
The two main tensions in the operational challenges of humanitarian law are protection and human dignity. Geoff Loane emphasised that the main role of the Red Cross is the protection of human dignity of all victims of a conflict. He repeatedly expressed in the sentiment that the ICRC (International Commission of the Red Cross) is a neutral organisation in that they say they will go everywhere and help ALL victims, regardless of which side they may be a part of in a conflict.
The ICRC works to treat THE HURT. Not one particular hurt.
This neutrality of the ICRC was written into the Geneva Conventions of 1949 as “it grants the ICRC the right to offer its services to the parties to the conflict”. As Loane explained, this is why often it is dangerous to cross over into policy debates or to begin trying to justify one side of a conflict over the other- as their mandate is to treat victims of any side of a conflict. Even if some victims were members of Al-Shabaab for example- the Red Cross’ only criteria when assessing this victim would be how to protect this individual’s dignity.
The argument of the ICRC is simple and effective. This means their work can be universally accepted. This is essential if the ICRC is able to have a positive impact. Researching further in to what the ICRC do after the lecture, I was impressed at the thorough work they do in order to ensure human dignity. This does not solely cover medical help but also developmental work such as ensuring safe access to water, maintaining and building economic security, as well as dealing with emotional hurts as well as physical hurts- such as the re-tracing family members and restoring links between families who may have been separated in a conflict.
International Commission of the Red Cross: http://www.icrc.org/
BBC news: Al-Shabaab: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-15336689 )
Exeter Global Uncertainties: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/events/details/index.php?event=2041