Today, the ICRC has more than 17,000 multinational staff helping people in over 80 countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ukraine. Its budget of CHF2 billion is funded by voluntary donations, with contributions from governments, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, supranational organisations, and public and private sources. Governments contribute about three-quarters of the total, of which more than 93.5 per cent is used for work in the field.
‘The ICRC has remained a Swiss organisation since its foundation’, says Yves Daccord, its Director General, who, like all his predecessors, is a Swiss national. ‘One reason for this was that when the ICRC was born in the 19th century, it was located in Switzerland because it is a neutral country and its founders were Swiss citizens. In its previous history, Switzerland had been involved in wars and exported mercenaries to other countries, so it still had experience of war. This was an interesting blend of neutrality, absence of colonies and some understanding of war.
‘Switzerland has been a vivid example of neutrality,’ he says. ‘It was able to navigate through two world wars as a neutral country. Our base in Geneva has highlighted our Swiss neutrality, and is also the place where the Geneva Conventions are held. And there are elements of the Swiss culture reflected by the ICRC: excellence, social control, confidentiality and working together.’