27 June 2022

Alumnae-i Share Experiences Working at the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC)

For the Summer Programme on “Humanitarianism: Its History and Politics”, Professor Davide Rodogno invited three former students to share their career paths, from students at the Institute to working now for one of the largest humanitarian organisations in the world. 

In addition to tracing their career paths, Gayathri Nagasubramaniam, Christoph Hanger and Sheree Anderson also discussed the organisation's role and its contribution to the humanitarian effort. 

How does the Red Cross find the factions and groups, whereas intelligence services cannot?
Christoph: It is about building trust with the local population. At the end of the day what keeps us safe is the acceptance of the people we work with. Building trust is a huge exercise. It is the job of the ICRC to talk to the “people with the guns”.

How does the ICRC stand by its role as a neutral actor?
Sheree: what we are trying to communicate is neutrality, and impartiality. This is extremely important to maintain access. It is known that what we do for one side, we also do for the other. It doesn’t work every time. It is extremely complicated and extremely sensitive. 

After having worked with large and small NGOs, what are the differences?
Gayathri: Bigger organisations have more bureaucracy. Smaller organisations are more agile and you can get things done more quickly. 

Does the ICRC participate in development strategies?
The ICRC does not have an objective of becoming a development actor. We try for our actions to be sustainable, but we do not, in principle, focus on development. Our aim is to make plans with local actors for when we leave. This is called the development-humanitarian nexus. And by working with both parties we can ensure that our humanitarian work is aligned with development.