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More than a century of humanitarian tradition

The ICRC’s mission is to protect and assist the victims of armed conflicts and internal disturbances on a strictly neutral and impartial basis.

Armed conflict is a prominent feature of our human landscape. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was founded nearly a century and a half ago to preserve a measure of humanity in the midst of war. Even in war there are limits: limits on how warfare is conducted and limits on how combatants behave.

The set of rules established with this in mind – and endorsed by 189 nations throughout the world – is known as international humanitarian law, of which the Geneva Conventions are the bedrock. The ICRC’s special role was assigned to it by States through the various instruments of humanitarian law.


The ICRC’s tasks include:

Protection activities
Visits to prisoners of war and civilian detainees
Search for missing persons

Transmission of messages between family members separated by conflict

Reunification of dispersed families
Assistance activities

Provision of food, water and material assistance to populations affected by conflict and to security detainees

Preventive and curative health care to people affected by conflict

Preventive action
Spreading knowledge of international humanitarian law
Monitoring compliance with that law
Drawing attention to violations and contributing to the development of humanitarian law

See also: Overview of the ICRC's operations in 2007


Why support the ICRC

Supporting the Foundation for the ICRC means supporting a key component of the Swiss humanitarian tradition, and underwriting the work of an impartial, independent, highly professional organization.

A worldwide presence
The ICRC is the only humanitarian organization that can take action whatever the nature of the conflict. Its ongoing presence in over 60 war-torn countries gives the ICRC first-hand knowledge of the situations in connection with which it works.

A historic mandate
Independent of all governments and international organizations, the ICRC is an association governed by Swiss private law. It works on the basis of a mandate conferred upon it by the international community at its inception: to act as guardian of international humanitarian law.
From the outset, the ICRC’s task has been to remind governments and all military and civilian authorities involved in conflict of their obligation to comply with that law.

A unique expertise
The ICRC has unparalleled experience in the field of humanitarian action, bringing together protection and relief work. The professional skills of some 11,000 delegates and local employees, including many specialists – war surgeons, agronomists, nutritionists, logistics experts – enable the ICRC to offer a comprehensive response to situations and to needs that are ever more complex.

A transparent management
The ICRC guarantees scrupulous management of its operational activities through careful planning, monitoring and evaluation of its programmes. Internal and external auditing procedures ensure full accountability regarding the use to which donations are put.

International Commttee of the Red Cross