International Committee of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross

Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada

In This Issue:
Happy 60th Anniversary Geneva Conventions!
Interview with Geoff Loane, Head of ICRC Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada
Afghanistan: Caring for Civilians Caught Up in Conflict
ICRC's Delegates to the U.S. Armed Forces
There's an App for That
The latest ICRC news from around the globe
Under the Protection of the Palm: Wars of Dignity in the Pacific
Wars of Dignity in the Pacific 
Since the earliest times, people have set rules intended to minimize the suffering caused by war. This ongoing process has led to treaties being drawn up and agreed to by States. Customary rules of international law have also developed over time; these rules regulate the conduct of warfare even when no treaty applies.

The body of laws aimed at protecting all victims of armed conflict is known as International Humanitarian Law, or IHL. These laws are predominantly found in the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. The Geneva Conventions today have been ratified by all countries of the world.

Aiming to openly listen to the people of the Pacific, the ICRC assigned a group of law students from the University of the South Pacific with the task to look into traditional warfare practices in the Pacific and possible similarities with contemporary principles of humanitarian law.

The researchers established that a number of practices during armed conflict in the Pacific constituted clear limitations imposed on warfare. Further, these practices, in use prior to European contact, show some direct correlations with modern laws regulating war.
Our World At War: On the Move
DRC - Ron Haviv, Our World at War
Our World at War: Photojournalism Beyond the Front Lines is on display through September 7, 2009 at the Newseum in Washington, DC.
In collaboration with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, the exhibit will travel to downtown Chicago where it will be showcased at Loyola University, from September 24 through November 20, 2009.
The exhibit will then travel to Ann Arbor, MI in partnership with the Washtenaw County Chapter of the American Red Cross from December 1 through 22. Stay tuned to this space for more dates and locations.
ICRC Mission
The ICRC is an impartial, neutral, and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance. 
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News and Notes
August 2009

This month is a time of transition for the ICRC Delegation in Washington. We say good-bye to Geoff Loane, Head of ICRC's Regional Delegation since 2004, who will soon take up post as the Head of ICRC's office in London. We also say good-bye to Michael Khambatta, our Deputy Head of Delegation who has served in Washington since 2007. At the same time, we extend a warm welcome to Mary Werntz, the incoming Head of Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada. She comes to us from Nepal where she served as Head of Delegation since 2006. Stay tuned for an interview with Mary in next month's newsletter. In this edition, Geoff shares a few insights from his time in Washington.
We also share with you news of the ICRC's celebrations in honor of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Conventions, as well as the link to the second round of research conducted to survey attitudes toward international humanitarian law. Below, please also find information about our activities in Afghanistan and a look at the outreach conducted by ICRC's delegates to the armed forces.
As always, for the latest news, please consult our website at
Kind regards,
The ICRC Washington Delegation
Happy 60th Anniversary Geneva Conventions!
Crowd at August 12 event at the NewseumOn the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC Washington delegation hosted an event at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Approximately 200 guests representing the U.S. government's executive and legislative branches, the U.S. armed forces, the American Red Cross, prominent think tanks, and NGOs attended. After welcoming remarks by Mr. Joe Urschel, Executive Director and Vice President of the Newseum, Head of ICRC Regional Delegation Geoff Loane delivered remarks on the importance and relevance of international humanitarian law in today's world.
The keynote address followed, with Mr. Gregory Craig, Counsel to the President, sharing with the crowd anecdotes from his four-decade association with the ICRC, beginning with an encounter during the Biafra conflict in 1969. He thanked Geoff Loane for his five years of service in Gregory Craig, Counsel to the PresidentWashington and then went on to express the U.S. Government's commitment to the principles of the Geneva Conventions, stating that they provide a foundation for sustainable security. In addition, he called on all governments to promote adherence to, vigorous compliance with, and enforcement of the Geneva principles. After the remarks portion of the evening, guests had the opportunity to view Our World at War: Photojournalism Beyond the Front Lines, on display on the concourse level of the Newseum through September 7. 
Summary ReportIn Geneva and many other cities around the globe, the ICRC organized similar events to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. In addition, the ICRC released the second round of research commissioned to gauge opinions on international humanitarian law. A large majority of people surveyed across eight countries say there should be limits to what combatants are allowed to do in the course of fighting, and that civilians should be spared. However, less than half of those surveyed were aware of the Geneva Conventions and among them, only a thin majority believe the Conventions limit the suffering of civilians during wartime. 


Interview with Geoff Loane, Head of ICRC Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada 

Geoff Loane, Head of ICRC Regional DelegationGeoff Loane has been the ICRC's Head of Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada since 2004. This month he says farewell as he moves on to assume his responsibilities in London and welcomes Mary Werntz as the new ICRC Head of Regional Delegation.
From 2004 to present day, what do you see as the significant changes in the relationship between the U.S. Government and the ICRC?

The fundamental change has been a shift from a largely diplomatic relationship to an operational one, in part as a result of the type of U.S. engagement in armed conflict in the world. As in all relationships, it takes time to recognize the added value of investing in them and building the confidence, trust, and esteem that is necessary. This was particularly the case in the challenging circumstances following the events of September 11, 2001. While the United States and ICRC share many common values, the way we work together on files like U.S. detainees in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and in Iraq has been a major achievement for everybody. I think it is recognized that the ICRC can provide insights, analysis, and recommendations that the U.S. government considers to be valid and valuable and this has become central to the current relationship.
Is there a moment that brought this home to you?
There are many moments -- some good and some bad. On the one hand, the photographs from Abu Ghraib were a low moment. The shock and shame that accompanied the revelation of ill-treatment of detainees dealt a terrible blow to all. On the other hand, the disclosure made by President Bush in September 2006 regarding the CIA detention program showed a level of transparency that was very positive. A more recent development is the fact that the ICRC is notified of all detainees in the hands of the U.S. Department of Defense within 14 days. This is a remarkable threshold.
How has the relationship with the American Red Cross evolved over the past five years?
The strength of the ICRC, of the Red Cross, of what that emblem means is proportional to the close working relationship that all the components of this diverse, complex Movement can establish. The ICRC and American Red Cross have worked very hard over the past five years to develop a common understanding of each other and each other's work in the humanitarian field. The American Red Cross operates largely domestically in times of natural disaster, and of course has tremendous international programs, such as measles prevention and tsunami recovery. The ICRC works in countries experiencing armed conflict. With the American Red Cross, we share a common understanding of the space we inhabit, as well as the same values and principles. It is in both our interests to take great pride in each other, which we do, and this has been an achievement of which I am personally very proud. I feel we are now very close to our brothers and sisters in the American Red Cross.
What key challenges for the ICRC in the United States and Canada remain?
In the complex world of foreign policy and armed conflict, which is where the ICRC operates, it is very important that political discussions and strategies account for the humanitarian concerns in these situations. One major challenge will be to continue to represent the humanitarian consequences of armed conflict in ways that get appropriate attention because civilians still suffer in desperately disproportionate numbers. This is a tragedy and an overarching concern all the time. A second related challenge is to support the application of international humanitarian law so that people are protected. We are all protected by this law, but unfortunately it is not applied as rigorously or effectively as we would like. If it were, then the world would be a safer place for civilians than is currently the case.
What advice have you given to your successor?
In addition to many issue-specific details, I have advised her to listen and to understand what is important for other people. I have suggested that she share her awareness and experience with humanitarian work and how that can make a difference. I have encouraged her to work closely with her team here in Washington. And finally, I believe a strong sense of humor to be critical in all aspects of the job.
As a final note, I will miss my work with the delegation in Washington -- my colleagues, professional network, and friends -- and the important issues we have faced together. All have contributed to a richly rewarding experience for me. I leave with a sense of pride in my team and with an appreciation to all I worked with for what we achieved and the trust we built in each other to do so.
Afghanistan: Caring for Civilians Caught Up in Conflict
Local health care services in front-line villages in the south of Afghanistan are being severely disrupted by the fighting. Patients and their caregivers are increasingly making the long and hazardous journey to Kandahar for treatment. Mirwais regional hospital is admitting more and more children with ailments that would be easily treatable locally if only health posts and clinics were functioning. More patients with severe trauma are also being admitted, and the number of civilians injured by improvised explosive devices is causing alarm.

ICRC orthopedic center, Kabul. ŠICRC/VII/J. NachtweyFamilies are fleeing the fighting not only in the south, but also in the north and east of Afghanistan. Since the start of 2009, ICRC assistance teams, together with volunteers from the Afghan Red Crescent Society, have provided emergency food rations and household items to 1,500 displaced families in Kandahar province, roughly the same number in Badghis province and to some 2,500 families in Helmand.
Afghan Red Crescent Society distributes relief items in Herat.Civilian casualties - whether caused by armed hostilities, indiscriminate attacks, suicide bombings or improvised explosive devices - are among people's greatest concerns. The latest tactical directive from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) command, makes the protection of the civilian population its highest priority. The armed opposition has also called for civilians to be spared harm in a new code of conduct made public in July.

Afghanistan is one of the ICRC's biggest operations worldwide, with 119 delegates and 1,314 national staff based at the organization's main delegation in Kabul and in five sub-delegations and eight offices countrywide. To read more about ICRC activites in Afghanistan, click here

ICRC's Delegates to the U.S. Armed Forces
The ICRC interacts with the armed forces of over 100 countries on a regular basis. Dialogue with armed forces is a natural and vitally important part of ICRC operating procedures, as through these interactions the ICRC gains the required levels of acceptance for its activities during a situation of armed conflict. The relationship between the ICRC and the U.S. military is characterized by regular and systematic institutionalized relations that touch different aspects of military policy and operational planning.
ICRC brief's U.S. Army's Captain's CourseThe ICRC engages in a multi-faceted dialogue with the U.S. military, one that involves a wide-range of issues and, correspondingly, extends to numerous geographic contexts around the world. On one hand, this includes various operational theatres, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. On the other, this interaction involves activities in "non-operational" contexts, mainly in the continental United States, but also in other locations as well.
The historical institutionalized integration of the law of war into U.S. military doctrine, directives, standing operating procedures, and tactics also promotes the working principles and role of the ICRC in conflict situations. Having the ICRC's role and mandate understood at all levels of military policy, doctrine, planning, and operations is important to both organizations. This remains the main aim of the ICRC's interaction with U.S. Armed Forces.

There's an App for That
The Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949
Need to check that article in the Geneva Conventions while you are on the go? Curious about Additional Protocol I? Check out the two free applications available for the iPhone and iPod touch. Just do a search for "Geneva Conventions" from iTunes or your App Store.