AHRC Care for the Future, in partnership with Exeter’s IIB and the GHRA 2018, invited Markus Geisser, Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor at the International Committee of the Red Cross to give a public keynote at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery Exeter. Markus looks back to a long career as humanitarian practitioner and accordingly he referred in his talk to this long experience.
Markus joined the ICRC in 1999 and carried out his first mission as an ICRC delegate in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This was followed by several years managing field operations in Myanmar, Thailand, Liberia, Darfur (Sudan) and then again in eastern DRC. From 2006 until 2013, he worked in senior management positions in countries affected by the so-called “Global War on Terror”, first in Iraq and Jordan, then in southern Afghanistan and in Washington DC. From 2013 until 2015, he served as Deputy Head of the division working on humanitarian policy and multilateral diplomacy at the ICRC’s headquarters in Geneva. In March 2015 he joined the ICRC Mission to the United Kingdom and Ireland as Senior Humanitarian Affairs and Policy Advisor.
Switzerland is uniquely positioned as host of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Swiss neutrality, Swiss humanitarian policy, and the Swiss flag are often associated with the Red Cross. As a result, a special relationship has developed between the country and the international humanitarian organization. My book, Hilfe schenken. Die Beziehung zwischen dem Internationalen Komitee vom Roten Kreuz und der Schweiz (NZZ Libro 2017), critically explores this relationship during the period between the two World Wars (1919-1939) using sources from the ICRC archives, the Federal Archives of Switzerland, and a wide range of publications and private archives in Switzerland.
At first sight, the interwar years were a calm period for the special relationship. Looking closer, however, exposes how the relationship between the ICRC and Switzerland changed and strengthened during this time, foreshadowing criticisms during Second World War that the axis between Bern and Geneva had become too close to guarantee truly neutral and independent humanitarian aid. Continue reading “The ICRC and Switzerland 1919-1939: a “special relationship” examined”→