Confidentiality: Key to the ICRC’s Work

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is known – and sometimes criticized – for its confidential approach to dealing with sensitive issues, such as its work in places of detention and its efforts to ensure that the lives and dignity of civilians and other non-combatants are respected. Critics argue that the organization is too secretive and should share its findings publicly, especially when it comes to conditions of detention and treatment of prisoners. Proponents maintain that discreet dialogue is key to protecting and assisting those affected by conflict.

The ICRC firmly believes that confidentiality is an essential tool, which enables it to reach out and maintain access to people affected by insecurity, violence and armed conflict. Confidentiality is what allows the ICRC to build trust, open channels of communication and influence change. But, as the ICRC’s deputy director of operations, Dominik Stillhart, explains, confidentiality must be respected in order to be effective.

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