“Ideally, states should not task private contractors
to take an active part in combat operations,” said Philip
Spoerri, ICRC director for international law. “Combat
functions in armed conflicts should remain the responsibility
of governments and should not be outsourced to private contractors.”
So far, 17 countries (Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Austria,
Canada, China, France, Germany, Iraq, Poland, Sierra Leone,
South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom
and the United States) have agreed on the Montreux document,
named after the town on Lake Geneva where government experts
met from 15 to 17 September 2008 to discuss how to better
regulate private military and security contractors. The Swiss
foreign ministry launched the initiative in 2006, and the
ICRC has been closely associated with it since the outset.
The private military and security industry was regularly consulted
during the process, as were non-governmental organizations.
The Montreux document reaffirms the obligation of states
to ensure that private military and security companies operating
in armed conflicts comply with international humanitarian
and human rights law. The document also lists some 70 recommendations,
derived from good state practice. These include verifying
the track record of companies and examining the procedures
they use to vet their staff. The ICRC underlined the benefits
of this document for countries and people affected by armed
conflict. “The paper provides an excellent basis on
which the ICRC can discuss issues of humanitarian concern
with all countries where private military and security companies
operate, or where these firms are based,” Spoerri pointed
out. “Because of its very practical recommendations,
it will be especially useful for states with weak governments
or those struggling with the impact of armed conflict, but
which want to regulate such companies on their territory.”
©PEDRAM YAZDI / ICRC
In August and September, an estimated 2.6 million people
were displaced by devastating floods in India that killed
more than 50 people. Isolated between the original course
of the Kosi River and a new channel that formed when its
banks were breached in Nepal, people struggled to survive.
Humanitarian organizations — including the Red Cross
— assisted in spite of massive logistical challenges.
In Bihar alone, nearly 300,000 homes were destroyed.
“The rising waters destroyed many of the bridges and
roadways that would otherwise have been used to access nearly
1,600 villages that desperately need help,” said Peter
Ophoff, head of delegation for the International Federation
in India. “As a result, the Indian Red Cross Society
and others involved in relief efforts are relying on boats
The Indian Red Cross distributed tents, tarpaulins, mosquito
nets, basic food and kitchen sets. It also helped move people
to safety, provided first aid and deployed three water and
sanitation units to provide vital clean water for drinking
and improved hygiene. The International Federation coordinated
the procurement and delivery of 10,000 tents and supported
detailed assessments longer-term needs.
“It is important to recognize that, while the situation
in Bihar is the focus of international attention, this year’s
monsoon has caused additional distress across the nation,”
said Ophoff. “Throughout India, nearly 500,000 homes
have been destroyed and more than 18 million people have
been affected by flooding.”
Officials said flood waters in Bihar might not fully recede
for months. Submerged villages could remain unreachable and
displaced people dependent on relief for the foreseeable
©REUTERS / RUPAK DE CHOWDHURI, COURTESY www.alertnet.org
Thousands of National Society volunteers across the Americas
were deployed in August and September to prepare for and
respond to storms Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike.
In the north of Haiti, tropical storm Hanna caused havoc
just days after the country was hit by Hurricane Gustav.
Haitian National Red Cross Society staff and volunteers,
working with partners in search-and-rescue missions, gave
early warning information to communities, encouraged people
at risk to move to safer ground as water levels rose, provided
first aid and helped shelter displaced people.
When Hurricane Ike passed over the Caribbean, hot on the
heels of Hanna, the sheer volume of water it dumped on Haiti,
the poorest country in the Americas, proved too much. The
floods unleashed by the torrential rains, gushing unimpeded
through the deforested hills, led rivers to burst their banks,
change their courses and wash away many lightly built homes.
The storms killed an estimated 700 people and forced 200,000
Meanwhile, in Cuba, early warning saved many lives during
Gustav, the worst hurricane in 50 years, when thousands of
people were rapidly evacuated. But the damage to homes and
infrastructure was immense, with an estimated 100,000 homes
destroyed by the hurricane. “Around 2,500 volunteers
were called into action to address relief needs arising from
Fay, and 4,000 volunteers had to be mobilized to deal with
the damage caused by Hurricane Gustav,” said Luis Foyo,
director general of the Cuban Red Cross.
Across the Americas, volunteers worked around the clock
to evacuate people, care for them in emergency shelters,
distribute food, provide first aid and psychological support,
and trace missing family members. In some places, rains made
delivery of aid hazardous and reduced the ability to conduct
assessments. The efforts of the Red Cross were backed by
international technical expertise and emergency appeals launched
by the International Federation.
©REUTERS / MATTHEW MAREK / ARC, COURTESY
At 78, Klaudia Famina is long past retirement. But having
spent 53 years in an environment that has no equal in the
world, she is not about to leave the ‘oil rocks’.
Started under Stalin in 1949 to pump oil from the Caspian
Sea, it was the world’s first offshore drilling site.
Before the days of helicopters, the most reasonable thing
to do was to link one platform to the next with bridges.
A freshly graduated engineer, Famina was brought in to build
these bridges. In the end she and thousands of other workers
had created a labyrinth of over 200 kilometres of roads in
the open sea, a whole town with nine-storey-high buildings,
gardens, a theatre, shops, a hospital and most other utilities
that a community of 5,000 workers needs.
After the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Famina decided
to stay in this unique world she had helped to build. She
decided to put all her effort into the small Red Crescent
representation on the oil rocks that she had been dedicating
herself to part time. “My real husband is Henry Dunant,”
Famina explains laughing when asked why she never married.
Pictures of the founder of the Red Cross prove her profound
admiration for the man. Her seventh-floor living room doubles
as the Red Crescent headquarters in this artificial island
community. “My role is to help my co-workers here in
any way I can,” says Famina, who is always at hand
to help in social and material emergencies. Famina brings
small gifts, welcoming newcomers or looking after the elderly.
It is obvious why she has earned her place in the history
of what is now the Red Crescent Society of Azerbaijan as ‘The
grandmother of the Caspian Sea’.
©JON BJORGVINSSON / ICRC
Egyptian Red Crescent Society intervention teams and volunteers
helped rescue people buried under rockslides at a shanty
town on the edge of Cairo on 6 September. Up to 200 people
were feared to have been buried when huge boulders fell on
Manshiyet Nasr neighbourhood, which is home to 1.2 million
people. Red Crescent staff and volunteers also helped transport
injured people to hospitals and erected a 50-tent camp. The
disaster occurred at about 09:00 when most residents were
sleeping, having woken up earlier to eat ahead of the daylight
fast for Islam’s holy month of Ramadan.
©REUTERS / ASMAA WAGUIH, COURTESY
Humanitarian law training
Filipino graduates of a post-graduate diploma course in
international humanitarian law (IHL) say the course contributed
to their development as professionals and as advocates for
disseminating IHL in the Philippines. The course is offered
online, with ICRC support, by the National Academy of Legal
Studies and Research at the University of Law in Hyderabad,
“The course allowed me to understand the universality
of IHL, its idealism and the importance of its application.
As manager in charge of the IHL office of the Philippine
National Red Cross, it was a must for me to do this course,”
said course graduate Roy C. Bautista.
Another graduate, Teofilo G. Panaga of the Philippine Navy,
said, “I found the course useful not only for my personal
advancement but most of all for my organization. It shows
that the Filipino armed forces adhere to the principles of
IHL, especially its compliance with the Geneva Conventions
on the need to educate its personnel on IHL.”
The course was an eye-opener for Myrish Cadapan-Antonio
of the Salonga Center for Law and Development at Silliman
“In the academic arena in the Philippines, IHL is still
in its infancy,” he said. “In fact it is only
since this course and the ICRC-sponsored moot court competitions
have existed that IHL principles and laws have begun to permeate
Philippine legal education.”
Twenty-three Spanish Red Cross teams brought psychological
support to families of the victims of a plane crash at Madrid
airport on 20 August that killed more than 150 people. The
teams, with 170 psychologists, doctors, nurses, social workers
and first aiders, helped family members who went to the temporary
morgue each day to wait for the identification of their loved
Pablo Navajo, spokesman for the Spanish Red Cross, said,
“This initial assistance is very important to help
affected family members avoid cases of post-traumatic stress
which can manifest later.” More than 700 Spanish Red
Cross volunteers participated in search and rescue, and provided
first aid and shelter to teams involved in the operation.
They distributed hygiene articles, blankets, food and other
relief items to relatives.
©REUTERS / SUSANA VERA, COURTESY
The ICRC is working to meet the emergency needs of around
60,000 people affected by the armed conflict involving government
forces and armed opposition groups in North West Frontier
Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas
“The situation is evolving rapidly and remains unpredictable.
In order to address the needs of the people who fled the
fighting, we need to be able to move quickly and be flexible,”
said Pascal Cuttat, the head of the ICRC delegation in Pakistan.
“We are expanding our support for hospitals dealing
with large influxes of war-wounded people. But we have to
be ready to do more.”
Funding has been increased recently and will be used mainly
to deliver relief to people who have been displaced or cut
off by the conflict. The ICRC has already distributed essential
items such as tarpaulins, blankets, hygiene items and cooking
pots to people arriving in improvised camps or staying with
host families in Lower Dir and Mardan in NWFP, and is now
entering the next phase in its relief effort, which includes
the distribution of food to the displaced.
“The ICRC reminds all parties to the conflict of their
obligation to comply with international humanitarian law,”
said Cuttat. “In particular, the parties must respect
and protect individuals not, or no longer, taking part in
hostilities, i.e., civilians and the wounded, sick or detained.
In addition, they must respect and protect humanitarian workers
and allow and facilitate deliveries of humanitarian relief
In NWFP and FATA, the ICRC is working in partnership with
the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, and coordinating its activities
with the authorities and other humanitarian organizations.
©ABDUL MAJEED / ICRC