The International Committee of the Red Cross: A Neutral Humanitarian Actor, 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

The International Committee of the Red Cross

A Neutral Humanitarian Actor, 2nd Edition

By David P. Forsythe, Barbara Ann Rieffer-Flanagan


154 pages

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The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has a complex position in international relations, being the guardian of international humanitarian law but often acting discretely to advance human dignity. Treated by most governments as if it were an inter-governmental organization, the ICRC is a non-governmental organization, all-Swiss at the top, and it is given rights and duties in the 1949 Geneva Conventions for Victims of War.

Written by two formidable experts in the field, this book analyzes international humanitarian action as practiced by the International Red Cross, explaining its history and structure as well as examining contemporary field experience and broad diplomatic initiatives related to its principal tasks. Such tasks include:

  • ensuring that detention conditions are humane for those imprisoned by reason of political conflict or war
  • providing material and moral relief in conflict
  • promoting development of the humanitarian part of the laws of war
  • improving the unity and effectiveness of the movement

Fully updated throughout, the new edition will also include brand new material on:

  • armed actors who do not accept humanitarian restrictions on their actions, including expanded coverage of the Islamic State (ISIL, ISIS), Al Shabab, and Boko Haram, among others
  • Syrian internationalized civil war
  • issue of drone strikes and targeted killings, and the continuing push for regulation of what is called cyber war
  • the question of the field of application of international humanitarian law (what is the battlefield?). Particularly when states declare "war" on "terrorist groups" operating inside other states
  • regulation of new weapons and new uses of old weapons

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Historical development 2. Organization and management 3. The ICRC and international humanitarian law 4. Humanitarian assistance and restoration of family ties 5. Detention visits 6. Conclusion: the future of the ICRC

About the Authors

David P. Forsythe is Emeritus University Professor and Charles J. Mach Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska –Lincoln, USA.

Barbara Ann J. Rieffer-Flanagan is Professor of Political Science at Central Washington University, USA.

About the Series

Global Institutions

The "Global Institutions Series" is edited by Thomas G. Weiss (The CUNY Graduate Center, New York, USA) and Rorden Wilkinson (University of Sussex, UK).

The Series has two "streams" identified by their covers:

  • Blue covers offer comprehensive, accessible, and informative guides to the history, structure, and activities of key international organizations, and introductions to topics of key importance in contemporary global governance. Recognized experts use a similar structure to address the general purpose and rationale for specific organizations along with historical developments, membership, structure, decision-making procedures, key functions, and an annotated bibliography and guide to electronic sources.
  • Red covers consist of research monographs and edited collections that advance knowledge about one aspect of global governance; they reflect a wide variety of intellectual orientations, theoretical persuasions, and methodological approaches.

Together these streams provide a coherent and complementary portrait of the problems, prospects, and possibilities confronting global institutions today.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations)