Obama Praises ICRC's Indispensable Role in Protecting the Most Vulnerable

As the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC performs a unique and indispensable role in advancing respect for the law of armed conflict, a mission of critical importance. From the beginning of my Administration, I have made clear that adherence to the domestic and international standards governing armed conflict is not only congruous with the United States’ most cherished values, but is a source of strength that enhances both the legitimacy and sustainability of operations critical to our national security.
— U.S. President Barack Obama
barack-obama-icrc

The ICRC’s President, Peter Maurer, was in Washington, DC this week for a series of meetings with senior officials from the outgoing U.S. administration and other foreign policy figures representing various political perspectives.

During the visit, Mr. Maurer received a letter from President Obama, expressing his gratitude for the continued and significant work of the ICRC. Mr. Maurer returned the gesture, extending his appreciation for the support extended to the ICRC by the US government.

Read the full letter exchange between President Obama and the ICRC below.

The ICRC initially had a presence in the U.S. from 1941 to 1947, and then reopened its delegation in Washington in 1995. Following the events of 9/11 and their consequences, it has established a comprehensive and constructive – albeit mostly confidential – dialogue with the U.S. authorities on a range of issues of mutual interest – from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the military’s conduct of hostilities. 

Full text of letter from President Barack Obama to ICRC President Peter Maurer

Dear Mr. Maurer:

On behalf of the American people, I would like to recognize the extraordinary work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in protecting the most vulnerable, supporting the rule of law, and promoting humanitarian values around the world, and to thank you for the ICRC’s partnership with the United States in the pursuit of these goals.

As the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC performs a unique and indispensable role in advancing respect for the law of armed conflict, a mission of critical importance. From the beginning of my Administration, I have made clear that adherence to the domestic and international standards governing armed conflict is not only congruous with the United States’ most cherished values, but is a source of strength that enhances both the legitimacy and sustainability of operations critical to our national security.

I would also like to recognize the ICRC personnel who every day put their lives on the line—sometimes paying the ultimate price—to provide life-sustaining assistance in conflict-affected regions around the world. We honor their courage, their commitment, and their sacrifice in the service of our shared humanitarian values.

Against this backdrop, my Administration has sought to deepen our engagement with the ICRC in the advancement of shared objectives, recognizing in two Executive Orders the ICRC’s vital role on issues relating to detention safeguards and civilian protection, and continuing our longstanding tradition of strong financial support. The United States and the ICRC have not agreed on every issues, but we have enjoyed a strong, constructive, and collegial dialogue that my team and I have greatly valued.

As my Administration draws to a close, I reiterate my appreciation for your strong leadership of the ICRC, and your partnership with the United States. Please convey to your staff my personal gratitude for the essential humanitarian mission you and they undertake every day.

Sincerely,

President Barack Obama

Full text of ICRC President Maurer Letter to President Obama:

Dear Mr President,

As your term draws to a close, I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation for the support your administration has given the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) over the past eight years. Much has happened in the world since we met in 2013. But throughout all the political upheavals and humanitarian crises, the United States has shown a steadfast commitment to supporting humanitarian work and promoting international humanitarian law.

The United States has long been one of the ICRC’s most loyal supporters and staunchest defenders, but we are truly grateful for how this relationship has flourished under your care. We appreciate the careful consideration you have given to important legal and policy matters related to our humanitarian mission. In addition, two of your executive orders have advanced our efforts to promote and develop international humanitarian law and provide assistance and protection to victims of armed conflict and other violence,
One of these orders acknowledges the importance of the dialogue with the ICRC on issues relating to the conduct of hostilities. The other mandates our access to Department of Defense detention facilities. This recognition of our role is important not only for US–ICRC dialogue, but also because it serves as an invaluable model everywhere we work.

Under your administration, the United States has also played a key role in asserting the contemporary relevance of international humanitarian law. It has helped raise awareness in international forums of the need for better implementation of the law as a prerequisite for protecting victims of armed conflict.

We may not always agree, but we have, even on difficult issues, always been able to engage in a constructive and mutually beneficial dialogue, and for this we are grateful. That is why I would like to thank you once again for your administration’s continued dedication and willingness to consistently and openly address humanitarian and legal issues with the ICRC.

We wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Maurer