New ICRC Publication: From Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City

Jean Luc Blondel, From Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City. The ICRC’s Work and Transformation from 1966 to 1975.

From 1966 to 1975, the ICRC criss-crossed the globe to provide humanitarian assistance during many of the major events of the decade, including the Viet Nam War, the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War in the Middle East, the military coups in Greece and Chile, the Portuguese withdrawal from its colonies in southern Africa, and the first visits by ICRC delegates to Nelson Mandela on Robben Island.

Drawing on archives recently opened to the public, this study provides a broad chronological and geographic overview of the ICRC’s activities during this period, and traces the development of its policy on visits to political.



It also provides an account of the ICRC’s work aimed at further developing international law – leading to the adoption of the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions – and helps the reader to understand how the ICRC, whose work had initially been limited to providing ad hoc relief in emergency situations, became an increasingly professional organization, capable of managing major operations at any given moment, anywhere in the world.

This book provides an ideal springboard for more in-depth research in the ICRC archives, and encourages readers to reflect on a key period in world history.

New Report on Red Cross Fundamental Principles: A critical historical perspective


CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / L. Lehongre

For more than half a century, the Fundamental Principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality have underpinned the global humanitarian work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. But how have these principles evolved since their codification in 1965, and to what extent have they been adapted for modern day conflict and emergency contexts? Are certain principles more ‘valuable’ than others, and what can the successes, failures and controversies of the past teach us about the future of humanitarian work?

These are just some of the thought-provoking questions raised in a new report: Connecting with the Past: The Fundamental Principles in Critical Historical Perspective. The report, a collaboration between the ICRC, University of Exeter and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, reflects the debates and key points raised by eminent academics, historians and humanitarians who attended a symposium at ICRC headquarters in Geneva in September, 2015. The event and related report, examine five significant periods of history, starting with the founding of the Red Cross in 1865 and ending with the post 9/11 era and the many unprecedented and complex humanitarian challenges that have arisen throughout.

‘Archival work and meetings at ICRC vital aspect of the Academy’ – Second Week of GHRA 2015 in Geneva

After the first week of academic training at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) 2015 travelled for a week of research training and discussion with ICRC members to the Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.

DSCN5071GHRA participants in the ICRC Archives

The First Day at Geneva started with an introduction to the public archives and library resources by ICRC staff. Jean-Luc Blondel, former Delegate, Head of Division, and currently Adviser to the Department of Communication and Information Management welcomed the group. Daniel Palmieri, the Historical Research Officer at the ICRC, and
Fabrizio Bensi, Archivist, explained the development of the holdings, particularly of the recently opened records from 1966-1975. The Librarian Veronique Ziegenhagen introduced the library with its encompassing publications on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, Humanitarian Action, international conflicts and crises. The ICRC also possesses a superb collection of photographs and films which Fania Khan Mohammad, Photo archivist, and Marina Meier, Film archivist explained.

In the afternoon, the GHRA group had the chance to discuss with Jacques Moreillon, Director General of the ICRC between 1984 and 1988. He gave a presentation on his long experience with special insights into Red Cross prison visits with political detainees. Dr Moreillon was one of the ICRC delegates to visit Nelson Mandela on Robben Island and shared his vivid memories with the participants.

GHRA 2015_110Jacques Moreillon, Honorary Member of the ICRC, at the GHRA 2015

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Journal for Human Rights: Special Issue on “Human Rights and Violence”

The Journal of Human Rights/Zeitschrift für Menschenrechte (zfmr) is a multidisciplinary quarterly journal, which publishes articles concerning the issues of human rights in English and German. Its aim is to serve as an interdisciplinary forum for the public discussion and social-theoretic reflection of questions of human rights. The journal reaches out especially to scholars working in all fields of political science, history, philosophy, sociology, and legal theory as well as politicians, policy makers and decision makers in politics, economy, and civil society. It seeks to intensive significantly the debate about human rights in political science and in related disciplines and offers wide-ranging approaches to the subject including both theoretic and empirical perspectives.


The main objective of the Journal of Human Rights is “to make a significant scholarly contribution to the theory of human rights and enrich and expand discourses about rights in practical political, economic, and social contexts. The journal is committed to the systematic development of the human rights subfield in political science and to the broadening the debate on human rights at all levels.”

Its recent issue focuses on the topic of “Human Rights and Violence” and contains a broad variety of articles from different disciplines. You can have a look at the abstracts of all contributions @:

In this issue I have published a contribution on the emergence and limits of the human rights regime after 1945 with a special reference to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 in the colonial context. Continue reading

The ICRC Archives is Opening its Records from 1966-1975

Dr. Jean-Luc Blondel, Head of the Archives and Information Management Division, International Committee of the Red Cross

Cross-posted from


Biafra ICRCNigeria. Biafra conflict. M’Baise province (team 16). Arrival of relief supplies. Public 1969 © CICR / WITH, R.

Since its founding in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been aware of the importance of keeping a record of its work and of its legacy – in the form of paper and audiovisual archives – to preserve the memories and knowledge of its past and to lay the foundation for its current and future work. Over time, the organization has amassed an outstanding and unique collection that encompasses its own history as well as the history of international humanitarian law and humanitarian action in general.

In January 1996, the ICRC decided to open its archives to the public in broad chronological sections at a time. By shortening the protective embargo on its archives, the ICRC was able to open the 1951-1965 records in 2004, thereby adding to the sources in its collection available for consultation by the public. From January 2015, the 1966-1975 archives will also be open to outside researchers. Continue reading

ICRC Exhibition “Humanizing War?”

On the occasion of the founding of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1863, and the signing of the first Geneva Convention in 1864, Geneva’s museums of art and history are presenting the exhibition “Humanizing War? ICRC – 150 years of humanitarian action“. The aim of this major exhibition is to show the various challenges the  ICRC has faced at different times and in the light of parallel developments in the nature of conflicts and violence.


The concept of the exhibition is to focus on humanitarian action by the ICRC over 150 years by showing the development of:

• conflicts and the context of violence;

• the identities of victims and the kinds of violence they suffer;

• the ICRC’s work methods and resources, both technical and human. Continue reading