ICRC establishes presence in Beijing
Civil Society | Education | Law and Rights
After years of negotiation, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Geneva-based humanitarian organisation mandated by the international community to ensure humanitarian protection and assistance to victims of war, has established an in-country presence in China.""
Agreed in July, the move will boost cooperation efforts that stretch back 15 years and have included, since 2003, running an artificial limb fitting centre for land-mine victims in Yunnan Province; a reminder of China's brief conflict with Vietnam in 1979 that left 200,000 mines lying in border areas.
Raising awareness of international humanitarian law is a major part of the organisation's mandate in China. Cooperation of this kind dates back to 1989 when a Peoples Liberation Army delegation first visited ICRC headquarters in Geneva. Engagement with the armed forces has since included the making of a video that covers rules of military engagement. ICRC hopes that awareness of such issues will be incorporated into the army's basic training curriculum.
Matthias Kind, an ICRC delegate in Beijing, says that having an in-country office will allow ICRC "to improve what we already do" and confirms that staff are preparing educational publications and developing a website to raise the organisation's profile in East Asia (www.icrc.org/chi).The Beijing office will also oversee activities in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea and Mongolia.
Kind also confirms that workshops and symposia have been held for academics and law students at universities in Beijing and Shanghai. Work with the Ministry of Education is expected to lead to the piloting of 'Exploring Human Law' modules in Shanghai and Sichuan middle schools.
Alongside its role in promoting international humanitarian law, ICRC will also be involved in cooperation with national Red Cross Societies and could move into other areas of work that fall within its global mandate.
ICRC has observer status at the UN Commission on Human Rights and stresses the complementarity between humanitarian law, governing the rules of engagement, and human rights, which protect individuals during times of peace. In many countries, the Committee runs a programme on missing persons, and its own statutes encourage its participation in visiting prisoners in times of peace.
"No agreement or conclusion has been reached on other areas of work yet," stresses Kind.
The ICRC, which operates on the principles of neutrality and independence, was formed under domestic law in Switzerland, but due to global recognition of its mandates the organisation enjoys certain privileges of intergovernmental organisations, and almost 80% of its income comes from government sources. It has delegations in around 80 countries worldwide, with more than 12,000 staff.
Report by Matt Perrement, September 27 2005