The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it faces unprecedented challenges in the complex age of modern warfare as it celebrates its 150th anniversary.
These include “new weapons [and] new types of actors coming into conflict”, ICRC chief Peter Maurer said.
The world’s oldest aid organization recently warned it was unable to cope with the “catastrophic” humanitarian crisis in Syria.
The movement currently employs 13,000 people working in 92 countries.
The movement was founded by a Geneva businessman, Henri Dunant, in 1863 in response to the suffering of injured soldiers abandoned on the battlefield of Solferino in northern Italy.
Horrified by what he saw, he documented the slaughter in his book, A Memory of Solferino, and decided to create an organization dedicated to helping war wounded.
Today, the ICRC, together with the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, has become a worldwide movement with tens of thousands of workers and volunteers.
In addition to delivering aid, the organization also aims to ensure that the rules of war are respected in conflict zones, and has a responsibility for looking after the rights of prisoners of war.
But the organization now faces challenges not foreseen in the original Geneva conventions.
At Solferino, there was just one civilian casualty, whereas nowadays it is estimated civilians make up more than 90% of war victims.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says it faces unprecedented challenges in the complex age of modern warfare as it celebrates its 150th anniversary
Warfare in the 21st Century is complex and chaotic, in part because of new weapons such as drones, conflicts – like that in Syria – with multiple armed groups, and shifting frontlines, said Peter Maurer.
“We see conflicts when one convoy has to overcome 35 roadblocks before the convoy gets to areas where food and medicine can be distributed,” he added.
Last November, the ICRC issued a warning over Syria’s escalating humanitarian crisis.
The constantly moving nature of the conflict meant it could not plan, but instead had to seize opportunities for aid delivery on a day-to-day basis, the organization said.
As a result, relief workers were unable to access certain parts of the country.
Despite its strong reputation, the record of the ICRC is not perfect.
Its policy of confidentiality led it to keep silent about Nazi concentration camps in WW2.
Confronted by widespread criticism, the organization was later forced to issue an apology. It said it had feared that speaking out would jeopardize its access to allied prisoners.
Red Cross: Key dates
- 17 February 1863: Launch of the International Committee for Relief to Wounded Soldiers, later to become the International Committee of the Red Cross.
- 26-29 October 1863: Creation of National Societies and adoption of the red cross as a protective emblem
- 22 August 1864: The original Geneva Convention is adopted to protect the sick and wounded in armies in the field. Paves the way for the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
- 27 July 1929: Red crescent is officially recognized as a protective emblem.
George Clooney has been arrested for civil disobedience at a protest outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington.
George Clooney, 50, was taking part in a protest to warn of a humanitarian crisis in the volatile border area between Sudan and South Sudan.
The actor, his father Nick and a number of other protesters had been given three verbal warnings by police not to cross a police line outside the embassy before being taken into custody.
The protesters had accused Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, of provoking a humanitarian crisis and blocking food and aid from entering the Nuba Mountains in the county’s border region with South Sudan.
“We are here really to ask two very simple questions,” George Clooney had said shortly before his arrest, according a report on CNN.
“The first question is something immediate – and immediately we need humanitarian aid to be allowed into the Sudan before it becomes the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”
George Clooney has been arrested for civil disobedience at a protest outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington
George Clooney added that the second thing he was there “is for the government in Khartoum to stop randomly killing its own innocent men, women and children. Stop raping them and stop starving them”.
Others protestors, including Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia and NAACP President Ben Jealous, were also arrested.
They were all handcuffed and placed into a U.S. Secret Service van.
The group held a sign that read: “Sudan: Stop Weapons of Mass Starvation.”
George Clooney said that he hopes to draw more attention to the issue and is impressed with President Barack Obama’s personal engagement on it.
The actor also said that if action is not taken in the next three to four months “we’re going to have a real humanitarian disaster”.
Secret Service spokesman George Oglivie said: “George Clooney was arrested for crossing a police line at the Sudan embassy and he’ll be transported to the Metropolitan police department second district.”
Also arrested were Martin Luther King III, son of the civil rights leader; Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern; Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran; and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Ben Jealous, said George Oglivie.
George Clooney’s arrest comes a day after he met President Barack Obama at the White House to discuss the Sudan situation.
The actor recently secretly travelled across the border to the Nuba Mountains in Sudan, where his group apparently witnessed a rocket attack.
George Clooney told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week that what was happening in the region was “ominously similar” to the violence in Darfur.
The UN estimates that nearly 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million been displaced since the Darfur conflict broke out in 2003.