The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has a long history of working with missing persons and their families. Based on its statutory mandate as enshrined in the 1949 Geneva Conventions, their 1977 Additional Protocols, the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and resolutions of the International Conferences of the Red Cross and Red Crescent,1 the ICRC has worked to prevent people from going missing and has facilitated family contact and reunification. It has also worked to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons since 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, when it pioneered the compilation of lists of prisoners of war and the introduction of “the wearing of a badge so that the dead could be identified”.2
The ICRC promoted and strengthened its engagement towards missing persons and their families when it organized the first ever International Conference of Governmental and Non-Governmental Experts on Missing Persons in 2003.3 Today, the ICRC carries out activities in favour of missing persons and their families in around sixty countries worldwide. In 2018, it embarked on a new project setting technical standards in relation to missing persons and their families, together with expert partners and a global community of practitioners who have a shared objective – preventing people from going missing, providing answers on the fate and whereabouts of missing persons, and responding to the specific needs of their families.
This Q&A explores the ICRC's current work on the issue of the missing and will, in particular, explore the ways in which the ICRC's Missing Persons Project aims to position the missing and their families at the centre of the humanitarian agenda.