Humanitarian Politics: The International Committee of the Red Cross

Humanitarian Politics: The International Committee of the Red Cross

Humanitarian Politics: The International Committee of the Red Cross

Humanitarian Politics: The International Committee of the Red Cross

Excerpt

Since the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has traditionally claimed to be a nonpolitical organization, it is well to explain why a book about the ICRC is entitled Humanitarian Politics.

The words "politics" and "political" in the English language (and in other languages as well) are used to cover a multitude of sins, both literally and figuratively. While those words have many meanings, three are relevant here: "realpolitik," "partisan politics," and "politics," broadly defined.

"Realpolitik" refers to the competition among actors in world politics for power, prestige, and -- in general -- who gets most of the pie.

"Partisan politics" is factional politics -- competition among groups within a nation for what there is to get. The groups can be political parties, factions within parties, interest groups, or any other type of political actor. What is sought may be votes, financial gain, a new law, or a million other things.

The ICRC has traditionally tried to stay apart from these two types of politics. At a minimum, the ICRC has tried to avoid any intentional action based on either realpolitik or partisan politics. That is to say, it tries to avoid action motivated by a desire to help one actor win some sort of victory in world politics over another actor, or to help one faction triumph over a rival within a nation. Sometimes in its attempts to help an individual, the ICRC may take action on humanitarian motivation that inherently works to the advantage of a state or faction. For example, if the ICRC is concerned about the fate of political prisoners in nation . . .

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