ICRC call for cash to aid the Middle East
The all-Swiss International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has launched its annual appeal to donors for funds to tackle humanitarian crises next year.
The Geneva-based organisation said it was planning to step up its aid activities in the Middle East, but the bulk of the funds was to go towards Africa.
"Providing a professional humanitarian response to increasingly diverse and demanding situations of armed conflict and to other forms of armed violence around the world presents a daunting challenge," ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said on Thursday.
He called on donors to contribute more than SFr1 billion ($0.8 billion) next year to finance the activities of the organisation.
Kellenberger pledged that the ICRC remained determined to meet the challenges and fulfil its role as "a neutral, independent and impartial actor".
Africa will once again account for 42 per cent of the organisation's operational commitments worldwide, according to the ICRC.
For the fourth consecutive year aid activities in Sudan are expected to constitute the largest operation - at a cost of about SFr73 million.
Other regions at the top of the agenda are Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan where the organisation will attempt to protect and assist civilians affected by armed conflicts.
North Africa, Middle East
While the aid budget for North Africa and the Middle East will see an increase of more than 60 per cent to SFr163 million next year, the ICRC has earmarked SFr73 million for Asia -down a quarter on the previous year.
"Perhaps one the main challenges faced by the ICRC is to effectively address the multiple needs of affected populations in extremely diverse environments. Ensuring that the ICRC is accepted by all relevant parties is crucial to achieving this," said Kellenberger.
He added that the ICRC's top priorities in 2007 would be to establish a dialogue with conflicting parties and remind them of their obligations under international humanitarian law.
Government and the European Commission continue to be the ICRC's main source of funding, accounting for more than 80 per cent of contributions last year.
Switzerland was the third largest donor in 2005, behind the United States and Britain.
Last month the Swiss cabinet rejected a plan by Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey to increase official contributions to SFr120 million annually from just over SFr92 million in 2005.
The foreign minister reportedly said the increase was in the interest of Switzerland's image and underlined the high respect the government held for the activities of the ICRC.
ICRC Aid budget total: SFr1.003 billion
Humanitarian operations: SFr843 million (-6%)
Africa: SFr338 million (-12%)
Asia/Pacific: SFr174 million (-25%)
Middle East: SFr164 million (+60%)
Americas and Europe: SFr127 million (-5%)
Contingency: SFr40 million
Geneva headquarters: SFr160 million (+4%)
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