Reaffirming the Role of the Movement as a Factor of Peace

By Amjad Mohamed-Saleem (IFRC) and Ariana Lopes Morey (ICRC)

Figure 1: YABC training in Iraq (Ahmed Al Rubaie 2021)

Condensing into words the current geopolitical challenges of our times and the resulting human suffering around the world seems an impossible task; attempting to find the right adjectives can feel like an exercise in sensationalism or cynicism. Yet there are important trends that must be articulated to put the topic of this article into context and perspective. Nations continue to grapple with diverging interests, economic disparities, territorial disputes and ideological rifts, and tensions easily escalate, exposing the fragility in our institutions and societies. In a new paper, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has identified alarming trends showing an upsurge in both international and non-international armed conflicts since the 1990s, most notably a tripling in non-international armed conflicts since 2000.[1] Escalating levels of violence and insecurity disrupt societies, amplifying existing vulnerabilities and eroding public trust in local and international institutions – and their trust in each other. The 2023 Global Peace Index highlights just how susceptible nations are to external shocks, such as pandemics, economic upheavals and climate emergencies, which further exacerbate the impacts of armed conflicts and violence. The Movement is devastated by the increasing human suffering it witnesses around the world and feels it is a critical moment for us, as part of the international community, to return to an ever-present question: what is the connection between humanitarian action and the pursuit of peace?

There has long been a perceived tension between humanitarian action and peace work. This is understandable, given that the principles of neutrality and independence limit how far humanitarians can engage in the deeply political process of peacebuilding. At the same time, peace has always been a humanitarian imperative. There is no more effective way to address human suffering caused by conflict and violence than to work to end it. Throughout its history, the Movement has therefore carefully examined and debated its distinctive contribution to peace, which derives from its deep and lasting commitment to the overarching principles of humanity and respect for dignity. Indeed, over the past hundred years, the Movement has embraced nearly as many resolutions and documents pertaining to peace.[2]

In response to the overwhelming and ever-rising humanitarian impacts of armed conflicts and disasters, and the resulting vulnerabilities, the Movement must renew its efforts to contribute to conflict resolution and prevention in the ways set out in the Statutes and the mandates of its components: nurturing humanitarian values through education, promoting the understanding of and respect for IHL, engaging local youth and fostering multilateral cooperation. These endeavours are pivotal in promoting respect for the human dignity of all people, mitigating the risks of violence, discrimination and exclusion and fostering peaceful coexistence.

Peace has always been a core value for the Movement. Its motto Per humanitatem ad pacem – through humanity to peace – underscores its dedication to promoting peace as the ultimate goal for all societies and the condition necessary for human suffering to be truly alleviated. The Movement’s Statutes assert that “by its humanitarian work and the dissemination of its ideals, the Movement promotes a lasting peace”, defining “lasting peace” as not the mere absence of war but a dynamic process of cooperation rooted in respect for freedom, independence, national sovereignty, equality, human rights and equitable resource distribution to meet people’s needs. The process is founded on the Fundamental Principles and underpinned by a universal sense of solidarity toward those in need of protection and assistance. The Movement’s commitment to dialogue, cooperation and humanitarian values has continued to evolve throughout its extensive history.

The Movement remains steadfast in its dedication to seeking the positive and constructive resolution of issues, tensions and violence. This commitment has been echoed in various resolutions and pledges at Statutory Meetings over recent decades. The current resolution touches on some of the key elements that make up the Movement’s unique contribution in this area, including promoting IHL, supporting local community leadership and engagement and acknowledging the importance of youth and volunteerism, according to the specific and complementary mandates of the different Movement components. It also encourages further reflection and evidence-gathering to better understand the impacts of these efforts for peace. The 2024 Council of Delegates provides a timely opportunity for the Movement to return to and reaffirm its commitment to supporting peace and resilience as the world’s largest humanitarian network.

Read more about this topic

ICRC, “How is the term ‘Armed Conflict’ defined in international humanitarian law?”, Opinion Paper, 16 April 2024, last accessed 24 April 2024. Available at

There are 100 steps to peace; the first are humanitarian | ICRC

[1] ICRC, “How is the term ‘Armed Conflict’ defined in international humanitarian law?”, Opinion Paper, 16 April 2024, last accessed 24 April 2024. Available at

[2] Between 1921 and 1985, 74 resolutions and documents were adopted and are compiled in the document “To Promote Peace: Resolutions on peace adopted by the International Movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent since 1921”, ICRC and IFRC, Geneva, July 1986. Additional resolutions have been passed from 1985 to the present, revealing a consistent desire on the part of the Movement to reflect on its role as a factor of peace from many different angles.

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