Workshop: The Past in the Present: The European Convention on Human Rights, its Historical Roots and Current Challenges

Cross-posted from: http://www.jura.fu-berlin.de/fachbereich/einrichtungen/oeffentliches-recht/lehrende/austh/informationen/Workshop-_The-Past-in-the-Present_.html

Workshop Convenors:

Professor Dr. Helmut Aust and Dr. Esra Demir-Gürsel, Freie Universität Berlin


The workshop looks at the role of history and historical events for the protection of human rights in contemporary Europe that is facing an authoritarian and populist backslide. It brings together three important debates: firstly, the current challenges for the protection of human rights in Europe; secondly, the historical roots of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) which was intended to provide an early warning mechanism against a fallback into authoritarianism and totalitarianism and thirdly, the way the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has dealt so far in its case law with historical injustices, i.e. the type of situations it was meant to prevent from arising again. The current rise of authoritarian and populist tendencies poses the risk of turning into a severe threat for a European public order based on the ideals of human rights, the rule of lawand democracy – all of which are essential to securing peace and stability in Europe. The workshop will mapthe strengths and weaknesses of the ECHR system to keep its initial promise in the face of this current challenge. It connects three strands of discussion which have so far been leading separate lives yet need to be seen together. When thinking about the current challenges for the ECHR system it is worthwhile to reflect upon the conditions under which the Convention and its Court were set up. What was the role that the Court should play in upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law when the Convention was drafted? How have these expectations shifted over time? How has the ECHR defined its role when dealing with cases which concerned large scale historical injustices? The workshop will provide a forum for reflection on these issues which are of great importance for the maintenance of peace and stability in Europeand beyond. The way that the European system of human rights protection will deal with these situations is likely to have repercussions on a global scale.

You find the full programme here: http://www.jura.fu-berlin.de/fachbereich/einrichtungen/oeffentliches-recht/lehrende/austh/Dokumente/Past-in-the-Present-Programme-2018_10_31-final-public.pdf




Reflections on two weeks of humanitarianism, historiography, research, and collaboration… and the creation of lasting friendships

Cross-posted from: http://careforthefuture.exeter.ac.uk/2018/09/reflections-on-two-weeks-of-humanitarianism-historiography-research-and-collaboration-and-the-creation-of-lasting-friendships/

Ryan W. Heyden

As historians have engaged in a widespread and heated discussion about the history of human rights and its relationship to contemporary political and social developments around the world, many have also turned to humanitarianism. With new and protracted conflicts raging in the Middle East and other parts of the world, and with the growing number of natural disasters caused by a rapidly changing climate, humanitarian workers and organizations are busier than ever before. And yet, the scholarly literature on humanitarianism and the labours of humanitarian workers since the 1700s was, until the last decade or so, focussed mainly on humanitarian aid delivered to various sites of conflict after the end of the Cold War. Political scientists were the primary researchers pushing this field of humanitarian studies. Thankfully, historians have joined this scholarly discussion, adding a much-needed historical perspective. Historians at all levels are trying to understand the origins and development of humanitarianism, asking many vital questions:  what has mobilized empathy for those suffering during war; how has humanitarianism been used and abused by the West in its effort to colonize the Global South; how can we understand the often-fraught gender and power dynamics involved in humanitarian campaigns and in the administration of aid; and, what is the relationship between humanitarianism and human rights? Scholars are also historicizing humanitarian institutions – like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières, CARE, and older institutions that tried foster “humanitarian sensibilities” like religious groups (missionaries) and the abolitionist movement – and asking how they fit into this budding historical narrative?

This rather brief outline of the field and its vital questions are merely a sampling of the work being done by historians around the world. It is also a snap shot of some of the themes I took away from this year’s iteration of the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy. In July 2018, I had the privilege of travelling to the University of Exeter in the UK and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Public Archive and Library in Geneva, Switzerland with the generous support of Care for the Future, the Leibniz Institute for European History, the German Historical Institute in London, and the ICRC. During my two-week intensive workshop and archival work, I had the pleasure of meeting and exchanging views with established scholars, newly-minted PhDs, and fellow PhD Candidates. I learned a lot during what can only be called a two-week academic adventure! While I could probably write ad nauseum about what I learned, my archival finds, and the people I met, I want to draw attention to a few lessons.

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Report of the GHRA 2018

The fourth Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) took place from July 09 to 20, 2018 at the University of Exeter and the Archives of International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. The GHRA was organized by FABIAN KLOSE (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz), JOHANNES PAULMANN (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz), and ANDREW THOMPSON (University of Exeter) in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross and with support by the German Historical Institute London. The Steering Committee received a huge amount of applications for the GHRA 2018 from around the world and selected twelve fellows (nine PhD candidates, three Postdocs). The participants came from Canada, China, France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States and represented a range of disciplinary approaches from History, International Relations, and Political Science. Additionally, the GHRA was joined by GUY THOMAS (ICRC Geneva), IRÈNE HERRMANN (University of Geneva), STACEY HYND (University of Exeter), MARC-WILLIAM PALEN (University of Exeter), and ANDREAS GESTRICH (German Historical Institute London).

First Week:

On Day One, the participants started with discussing crucial texts on the historiography of humanitarianism and human rights. The common reading list included texts regarding the historical emergence of humanitarianism since the eighteenth century and the troubled relationship between humanitarianism, human rights, and international humanitarian law. Furthermore, the participants reflected on twentieth century conjunctures of humanitarian aid and the colonial entanglements of human rights as well as recent scholarship on the genealogies of the politics of humanitarian protection and human rights since the 1970s. In the evening, MARCUS GEISSER (ICRC, United Kingdom) gave a stimulating public guest lecture “The ‘present’ is never present – it is already past. Humanitarian action in an age of reorder” at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum Exeter, in which he reflected on his personal experiences as an ICRC delegate for twenty years in various conflicts around the world.

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Call for Application GHRA 2019

Academy Leaders:   

Fabian Klose (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz)

Johannes Paulmann (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz)

Andrew Thompson (University of Exeter)         

in co-operation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva)

Venues:                     

Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz & Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva

Dates:                         8-19 July 2019

Deadline:                    31 December 2018

Information at:         http://ghra.ieg-mainz.de/, http://hhr.hypotheses.org/ and http://imperialglobalexeter.com/

The international Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy (GHRA) offers research training to PhD candidates and early postdocs. It combines academic sessions at the Imperial and Global History Centre at the University of Exeter and the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz with archival sessions at the Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. The Research Academy is for early career researchers who are working in the related fields of humanitarianism, international humanitarian law, peace and conflict studies, human rights covering the period from the 18th to the 20th century as well as the institutional history of the ICRC and the development of its fundamental principles. It supports scholarship on the ideas and practices of humanitarianism in the context of international, imperial and global history thus advancing our understanding of global governance in humanitarian crises of the present.

In July 2019, the Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy will first meet for one week in Mainz for academic sessions of lectures, class meetings and discussions, including study time (the academic meetings rotate annually between Mainz and Exeter; in the previous year this meeting took place in Exeter). PhD students will have the chance to sharpen the methodological and theoretical focus of their thesis through an intense exchange with peers, postdocs, and established scholars working in the same or related field of humanitarianism. The postdocs will benefit from discussing their research design and publication strategy with established scholars.

The academic session at Exeter or Mainz is each year followed by a one week archival session at Geneva. Here the archives of the ICRC offer a unique insight into humanitarian action during the past 150 years. The holdings provide rich material, including visual material, for the history of international affairs in the ages of nation states, empires and global governance, particularly the study of humanitarianism, humanitarian law, conflicts studies as well as related issues such as human rights. Under the guidance of experienced archive staff, the members of the Research Academy will study primary sources related to the previous discussions at Exeter as well as to their own research projects if applicable.  Opportunities may also be provided for intensive discussions with active members of the ICRC staff and other Geneva based humanitarian organisations.

Each selected academy fellow receives the cost of travel to Mainz and accommodation in Mainz and Geneva. Academy fellows will be asked to purchase their travel to Geneva as proof of their commitment to attending the Academy.

The Research Academy invites applications for the 2019 Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy (GHRA) from PhD students and early postdocs. The Steering Committee will select up to 12 participants. Applicants must be able to certify that they are fluent in both written and spoken English, the Academy’s working language. Participants of the international Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy will be chosen by the Steering Committee on the basis of

  1. a cover letter (maximum 350 words) setting out the applicant’s motivation for participating in the academy and indicating the anticipated outcome of their research;
  2. a statement (maximum 1,000 words) summarizing their research project;
  3. a brief curriculum vitae (maximum 2 pages);
  4. two supporting letters from appropriate referees.

This application should be compiled by the applicant and the whole set of papers including reference letters should be submitted as a single PDF, with the file saved as ‘LASTNAME_FIRSTNAME.PDF’. To apply, please send your application consisting of one pdf-document with the Subject “Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy” to the organisers at ghra@ieg-mainz.de by December 31, 2018.

Present Threats to Democracy – Resolution by the German Historical Association (VHD)

The German Historical Association (Verband der Historiker und Historikerinnen Deutschlands) passed a resolution on present threats to democracy at its bi-annual meeting in Münster

The German Historical Association (VHD) held its bi-annual meeting, the Historikertag, from 25-28 September in Münster, Westphalia. The 3.700 visitors debated the theme “Divided Societies” (“Gespaltene Gesellschaften”) in almost 100 sessions and panels ranging from ancient to contemporary history. The topic was also intensively discussed with regard to historians’ role in the present. Initiated by Dirk Schumann and Petra Terhoeven from Göttingen and supported by a group of a dozen historians, the General Meeting on 27 September passed a resolution on the present threats to democracy (“Resolution des Verbandes der Historiker und Historikerinnen Deutschlands zu gegenwärtigen Gefährdungen der Demokratie”). An overwhelming majority of the several hundred members present voted in favour of the Münster declaration (pdf)

The resolution defends key principles against present-day threats posed by populists’ voices and activities. It argues amongst others for a historically sensitive language against discriminatory cries like “Volksverräter” or “Lügenpresse” reminiscent of the anti-democratic rhetoric in Germany during the first half of the twentieth century. It further appeals to hold up humanitarian principles and international law with regard to asylum seekers and refugees calling to mind past German deeds and experiences. The declaration also mentions the search for European cooperation that emerged from the bitter strife and conflicts during period of two world wars as well as the principles of debating in pluralist democracies. The resolution concludes with an appeal to study the past critically so that political abuse in the form of fake history can be rejected based on scholarship.

The resolutions has already attracted comments in the press. See for example

https://www.welt.de/kultur/history/article181702310/Deutscher-Historikertag-Als-Japan-den-Islam-einfuehren-wollte.html

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/historikertag-stellt-sich-gegen-die-afd-15812149.html

https://www.bild.de/politik/inland/politik-inland/52-historikertag-ist-unsere-gesellschaft-wieder-so-gespalten-57539680.bild.html

https://www.tagesspiegel.de/wissen/deutscher-historikertag-in-muenster-raus-aus-der-komfortzone/23123400.html

During the General Assembly and in a panel discussion on the previous evening, members of the German Historical Association discussed not so much the detailed points in the draft resolution, nor did they question the exact wording. A large majority appeared to support the key principles. The foremost question was whether and how historians should intervene in political debates. Some argued against a resolution on particular political issues although they generally supported the ideas and values of the text. They preferred to focus on threats to freedom of research and the democratic conditions necessary to maintain that freedom. Few saw the resolution as a party political statement or pointed out that a rhetoric of crisis might fuel the danger. That the declaration was also directed against the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) was plain without that party being explicitly mentioned. Nevertheless, most recognized that the text was on the defence of principles rather than policies and does not support positions of any single political party.

Those in favour agreed that historians should give guidance based on their scholarly expertise. Historical guidance for the public usually takes the form of analysis and historical explanations. However, it seemed to the majority that present threats called also for normative statements. One speaker reminded the assembled historians of Theodor Mommsen’s intervention in the anti-Semitism debate in 1880 and declared that Mommsen’s principled stance may serve as a positive reference for today’s German Historical Association. Distinguishing between the historian as scholar and expert on the one side and the historian as citizens on the other was described as a moot and artificial point under present circumstances. It was felt that historians should explicitly defend those principles of pluralist society under attack from populism at present. One speaker from Chemnitz and another one from a memorial site (Gedenkstätte) in Lower Saxony strongly urged those present to pass the resolution because they needed this kind of support by the professional organisation against the current, sometimes daily threats to their freedom of research. The final vote by showing of hand demonstrated that German historians as an organised profession overwhelmingly recognized the present threats and saw the need to defend key principles of pluralist and democratic society.

Position in Jewish History

The Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, Germany seeks a new Research Fellow (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter*in) for five years

Deadline: 15 October 2018

The successful candidate pursues an individual research project within the frame of the IEG research agenda “Negotiating differences in Modern Europe” . The innovative project contributes to one of the three research areas of the IEG (research program). The position is open to Early Modern and 19th or 20th century applications.

The Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG) in Mainz is an independent research institute and a member of the Leibniz Association. It conducts research on the political, social, cultural and religious foundations of Europe from the early modern period to contemporary history and has an international fellowship programme for PhD candidates (www.ieg-mainz.de/en).

Download announcement in English or German



CfP: Graduate Workshop 2019 “European History across Boundaries from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century”

Academy Conveners: Sarah Panter (Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz), Johannes Paulmann (Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz) and Lyndal Roper (University of Oxford)

Venue: University of Oxford

Date: 13–15 March 2019

Deadline for Applications: 15 October 2018

The Leibniz Institute of European History at Mainz, Germany, and the University of Oxford, Faculty of History, invite international Ph.D. students to a workshop on European history across boundaries from the 16th to the 20th century, including Europe’s relations with the world. We encourage researchers working in this field to present their Ph.D. projects and to discuss the transcultural and transnational scope of their findings in a stimulating environment. Topics that aim to cross and reflect boundaries and borders are of particular interest. Projects can employ a variety of methodical approaches such as comparative studies, the study of transfer processes and entanglements, or the histoire croisée.

At the workshop, we will discuss pre-circulated papers based on archival research (max. 8,000 words, written in English, to be submitted by 15 February 2019). Accommodation for the duration of the workshop and a contribution to travel expenses within Europe will be provided.Proposals should include an abstract of the overall project and its archival sources (500 words) plus a brief biographical note (including institutional affiliation, thesis supervisors, and contact details). They should be sent in one pdf-file to Sarah Panter – panter@ieg-mainz.de – by no later than 15 October 2018. For any questions, please contact the organisers.

“The present is never present – it is already past. Humanitarian action in an age of reorder” by Markus Geisser

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 refered in his talk to this long experience.

He started in 1999 when he first joined the ICRC 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.

IEG Fellowships for Postdocs

Application deadline: October 15, 2018
For fellowships beginning in April 2019 or later.

The Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG) awards fellowships for international postdocs in European history, the history of religion, historical theology, or other historical disciplines.

The IEG funds research projects on European history from the early modern period until 1989/90. We are particularly interested in projects

  • with a comparative or cross-border approach,
  • on European history in its relation to the wider world, or
  • on topics of intellectual and religious history.

Aims

This fellowship is intended to help you develop your own research project in close collaboration with scholars working at the IEG. Your contribution consists in bringing your own interests to bear on the work of the IEG and its research programme negotiating difference in Europe. This includes the possibility of developing a perspective for further cooperation with the IEG. If for this purpose a promising application for third-party funding is submitted, an extension of the fellowship is possible.

What we offer

The IEG Fellowship provides a unique opportunity to pursue your individual research project while living and working for 6–12 months at the Institute in Mainz.
The monthly stipend is € 1,800.

Requirements

During the fellowship you are required to reside at the Institute in Mainz. You actively participate in the IEG’s research community and the weekly colloquia. We expect you to present your work at least once during your fellowship. Applicants must have completed their doctorate no more than three years before taking up the fellowship. We expect proficiency in English and a sufficient command of German to participate in discussions at the Institute.

Application

Please combine all of your application documents into a single PDF except for the application form and include a word count at the end of your project description. Please send your application to application@ieg-mainz.de. Letters of recommendation should be submitted directly by the referees. You may write in either English or German; we recommend that you use the language in which you are most proficient.

Please download the application form here: http://bit.ly/IEG_Postdoc2019

Please direct your questions about the IEG Fellowship Programme to Barbara Müller (fellowship@ieg-mainz.de) or visit our website:
http://www.ieg-mainz.de/en/fellowships

“I want to make Denmark unattractive for asylum seekers”

Radio Feature on Danish Asylum Policy by Jana Sinram

Since 2015, Denmark’s conservative-liberal government has tightened immigration laws 89 times. Denmark has minimised the financial allowance for asylum seekers, made family reunifications almost impossible for refugees under temporary protection and suspended the admittance of UN quota refugees. “I want to make Denmark unattractive for asylum seekers”, says minister of Integration Inger Støjberg. Now, prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has introduced a plan to deport rejected asylum seekers to centers outside the EU.

Danish Parliament in Copenhagen

Read and hear more in a feature by German public radio Deutschlandfunk Kultur:

https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/asylpolitik-in-daenemark-eine-torte-als-zeichen-der.979.de.html?dram:article_id=421155

Talk by Markus Geisser, International Committee of the Red Cross

Cross-posted from https://imperialglobalexeter.com

AHRC Care for the Future, in partnership with the University of Exeter, invite you to join us for an evening with Markus Geisser, Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor at the International Committee of the Red Cross. Markus will be talking about his work with the International Committee of the Red Cross – a career that has seen him travel the globe and influence the development of humanitarian aid policy. There will be an opportunity at the end of Markus’ talk to ask questions. This will be followed by a wine reception with nibbles. All are welcome to attend.

When: Monday 9 July 2018, 17:45 – 19:55 BST
Where: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Queen Street, Exeter, EX4 3RX

****Please register your attendance****

Doors at 17:45 for a 18:00 start.
Please use the garden entrance at RAMM for Gallery 20.

REGISTRATION: Eventbrite

Biography
Markus looks back to a long career as humanitarian practitioner. A Swiss native, he started in 1999 when he first joined the ICRC 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. He holds a Diploma in Peace and Conflict Studies from the Fernuniversität Hagen, a BA in Political Sociology from the University of Lausanne and a MSc in Violence, Conflict Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

Limited seats available. Click here to register

IEG Fellowships for Doctoral Students

Application deadline: August 15, 2018
For Fellowships beginning in March 2019 or later.

The Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG) awards 8–10 fellowships for international doctoral students in European history, the history of religion, historical theology, or other historical disciplines. The IEG funds PhD projects on European history from the early modern period until 1989/90. We are particularly interested in projects

• with a comparative or cross-border approach,
• on European history in its relation to the wider world, or
• on topics of intellectual and religious history.

WHAT WE OFFER
The IEG Fellowships provide a unique opportunity for doctoral students to pursue their individual PhD project while living and working for 6–12 months at the Institute in Mainz. The monthly stipend is € 1,350.

REQUIREMENTS
Fellows are required to reside at the Institute in Mainz. They actively participate in the IEG’s research community, the weekly colloquia and scholarly activities. Fellows are expected to present their work at least once during their fellowship. The IEG preferably supports the writing up of dissertations; it will not provide funding for preliminary research, language courses or the revision of book manuscripts. PhD theses continue to be supervised under the auspices of the fellows’ home universities. We expect proficiency in English and a sufficient command of German to participate in discussions at the Institute.

APPLICATION
Please combine all of your application documents into a single PDF except for the application form and include a word count at the end of your project description. Please send your application to application@ieg-mainz.de. Letters of recommendation should be submitted directly by the referee. You may write in either English or German; we recommend that you use the language in which you are most proficient.

You can download the application form under the following: http://bit.ly/IEG_Fellowships
The IEG has two deadlines each year for the fellowships: February 15 and August 15.
The next deadline for applications is August 15, 2018.
Please direct your questions about the IEG Fellowship Programme to Barbara Müller (fellowship@ieg-mainz.de) or visit our Website http://www.ieg-mainz.de/en/fellowships

Fourth GHRA, 09-20 July 2018

In about a month the fourth Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) will meet for one week of academic training at the University of Exeter before continuing with archival research at the ICRC Archives in Geneva. The Research Academy addresses early career researchers who are working in the related fields of humanitarianism, international humanitarian law, peace and conflict studies as well as human rights covering the period from the 18th to the 20th century. It supports scholarship on the ideas and practices of humanitarianism in the context of international, imperial and global history thus advancing our understanding of global governance in humanitarian crises of the present.


The GHRA received a huge amount of applications from an extremely talented group of scholars from more than twenty-one different countries around the world. The selection committee considered each proposal carefully and has selected these participants for the GHRA 2018:

Monique Beerli, University of California

Monique J. Beerli is a research associate at the Centre de recherches internationals and a visiting researcher at UC Berkeley. Her current project, Governing the Global Governors, received support from the Swiss National Science Foundation. In 2017, she received a double degree in political science from Sciences Po Paris and the University of Geneva. Her thesis, Saving the Saviors: An International Political Sociology of the Professionalization of Humanitarian Security, examined the genesis of security specialists within the humanitarian field and the effects of this professional transformation. Her work has been published in Global Governance, International Political Sociology, and International Peacekeeping.

Jennifer Carr, University of Glasgow

Jennifer Carr is a second-year doctoral researcher, writing a medical history of refugee camps at the University of Glasgow, where she is also postgraduate co-convenor for the Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMnet). Her PhD, funded by a Wellcome Trust medical humanities doctoral scholarship, focuses on medical humanitarian action at times of emergency and the shift from crisis to development, with case studies of Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria and Palestinian camps in Jordan. She has recently completed a residency at the Brocher Foundation in Geneva, and am an associate of emergency assistance charity, UK-Med.

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The ICRC and Switzerland 1919-1939: a “special relationship” examined

Cross-posted from https://imperialglobalexeter.com/2018/05/28/the-icrc-and-switzerland-1919-1939-a-special-relationship-examined

Thomas Brückner

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.Looking at ICRC missions in the field, for example, I found that the ICRC did not collaborate with Switzerland during the interwar years nearly as much as it had done during the First World War.[1] This also held true for the refugee crisis after the First World War, and for several conflicts during the 1930s.

However, Swiss foreign policy started relying more and more on its relationship with the ICRC. It was important for government officials to position Geneva and the ICRC as pillars of its neutrality and humanitarian policy in order to promote Geneva as the headquarters of the League of Nations.

There was also competition about competencies and patronage when it came to developing international humanitarian law. Switzerland showed a great interest and provided resources to the ICRC. Members of the ICRC were in close collaboration with Swiss officials to prepare a convention for the protection of prisoners of war and the revision of the Geneva Convention. In 1929, a conference held in Geneva completed this work and 33 states signed the conventions. The Swiss and the ICRC positions were strengthened in the texts.

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