Sunday, January 15, 2006

February 1 meeting with the ICRC director general for Asia

For anyone who happens to be in the DC area and is interested, the Hoover Institution will be hosting a small lunch meeting on February 1 with the director general for Asia of the ICRC, on the topic of humanitarian relief work by the ICRC in Asia. This includes things like tsunami relief, Pakistan earthquake relief, humanitarian relief work in various conflict zones and so on.

Here in Washington there is a general perception that the ICRC is all about Guantanamo, detention, and what the organization calls "protection" issues. Which is true - it takes up a vast amount of ICRC resources and time here in DC. People like me have often been critical of the ICRC on these issues - this blog takes up some of them, and folks like David Rivkin and Lee Casey have made the argument that the ICRC has become improperly politicized in its work.

So it is very important - I say this is both a strong supporter and occasional critic of the ICRC - that people in DC, including the ICRC critics, be aware of the broader work of the ICRC, especially in humanitarian relief work. I have always opposed linking the ICRC funding from the US government to the fights the Bush administration has with the ICRC over things like detainee access and so on. The reason is simply that the work of the ICRC in conflict zones, where it has not just the greatest expertise and ability to help, but not infrequently the only access, makes it indispensable. Frankly, that is more important than whatever the political fights between the administration and the ICRC over other issues - and I say this as someone who frequently takes the administration's side on many of these fights. Fight with the ICRC, by all means - even nastily if that is the only way to make the point - but be completely clear that those fights have no implications for the funding of the indispensable work of the ICRC with victims of war and disaster.

So this meeting, which Tod Lindberg, editor of the Hoover Institution's Policy Review, and I are honored to host, is a chance to discuss not the usual detention-interrogation-war on terror issues, but the humanitarian work of the ICRC. Tod and I will moderate, and we will limit discussion to the ICRC's humanitarian work and, because the speaker is coming from Asia, to Asia issues specifically.

The meeting will be 12-2 pm, February 1, in the Hoover Institution/Policy Review's offices in Dupont Circle. Limited space - no more than 20 people, of which we're reserving places for some government people and some others, so space is a premium. But it you'd like to attend, please email me and give some idea of your background, so I can see if we have space. No promises - this meeting may already be filled with people invited by the ICRC, but if you'd like to be considered, email me.

If it turns out that we have mega-response and not enough room, we'll probably schedule a subsequent meeting with Geoff Loane, the head of the ICRC office and himself a humanitarian relief specialist.

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