ICRC - International Committee of the Red Cross

Protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict, provide them with assistance and prevent suffering by promoting international humanitarian law and principles: this is the mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Switzerland’s most important international humanitarian partner, the ICRC receives nearly one third of SDC’s financial resources for humanitarian aid.

The ICRC is impartial, neutral and independent. Its humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflicts and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance. The ICRC also endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening International Humanitarian Law and universal humanitarian principles.

Established in 1863, the ICRC is at the origin of the Geneva Conventions and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It directs and coordinates the international activities conducted by the Movement in armed conflicts and other situations of violence.


The ICRC’s main activities include:

  • search for missing persons
  • facilitate information exchange among family members separated by conflict
  • facilitate family reunions and visits to detainees
  • safeguard healthcare, water and nutrition during emergencies
  • ensure economic security
  • promote the respect of law

Results: Privileged humanitarian access

Due to its particular mandate, its internationally recognized professionalism and respect for humanitarian principles, the ICRC is one of the few organizations with a privileged humanitarian access in situations of armed conflict. During crises the ICRC is often one of the only organisations able to operate in areas inaccessible to other organizations.

Together with the local Red Crescent or Red Cross organizations, the ICRC assists the population while providing them with safe water, food, health and basic necessities. At the same time, the ICRC carries out its protection activities, namely visiting detainees and restoring family links.

Switzerland’s commitment

Nearly one third of the budget of Switzerland’s humanitarian aid is allocated to the ICRC, making Switzerland the fourth most important ICRC-donor.

Switzerland is not only depositary state of the Geneva Conventions that form the basis of the ICRC’s work, it also supports the ICRC in its efforts to respond to the continuously evolving humanitarian challenges, to promote respect for humanitarian principles and to strengthen International Humanitarian Law. Switzerland’s support for and partnership with the ICRC also ensures its timely and effective response to emergencies, the protection of civilians and the provision of health care in the field.

The ICRC is the SDC’s most important humanitarian partner and their activities often complement each other. Upon request of the ICRC, SDC nominates members of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit for specific missions, while the SDC can rely on the extensive network of the ICRC and its national entities to fulfil its mandate during crises. In addition to regular meetings, the two bodies meet during emergencies to exchange information.

Results: Focus on the most urgent needs

When allocating its funds, the Humanitarian Aid of SDC takes into consideration the needs of civilians within an affected country as well as the needs of those who have fled to neighbouring countries. Since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011, millions of people have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.  In Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Ukraine, millions of people are caught up in a spiral of violence. On the African continent, there are armed conflicts in the Great Lakes region, the Sahel and Lake Chad region. Swiss Humanitarian Aid supports ICRC aid activities in these countries and regions.


The Humanitarian Aid of SDC provides financial support to ICRC operations. Whenever possible they work together when the two organisations are present in the field during a crisis.

On a policy level, the ICRC often requests Switzerland’s involvement in diplomatic initiatives. This primarily involves mediation activities or peace negotiations between parties involved in a conflict. As a neutral country Switzerland is well-suited for this purpose.

Switzerland and the ICRC also collaborate on joint initiatives, such as the Swiss-ICRC initiative to strengthen compliance with international humanitarian law. This initiative aims to provide legal protection to all victims of armed conflicts. Such initiatives also include the facilitation of humanitarian access and the definition of regulations for private military and security contractors.