The Humanitarians

The International Committee of the Red Cross

The Humanitarians

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) coordinates the world's largest private relief system for conflict situations. Yet despite its very important role, operations remain mysterious and secretive. This book examines the ICRC from mid-nineteenth century origins to the present. Taking international humanitarian law into consideration, David Forsythe focuses on the policy making and field work of the ICRC. He explores how it exercises its independence impartially to protect prisoners in Iraq, displaced and starving civilians in Somalia, and families separated by conflict in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


"Were this a commissioned study of its history, policy analysis and future goals, the International Committee of the Red Cross could not have expected a more solid, fair-minded or insightful result than has been delivered here independently by American academic and long-time ICRC watcher David Forsythe... Although not uncritical of the ICRC, Forsythe offers persuasive justification for its refusal to engage in shame and blame activities and its continuance, instead, of advocacy for incremental improvement."
The Australian

"David P. Forsythe, well respected for his works relating to Human Rights, also happens to know more about the ICRC than anyone outside, and almost everybody inside, that organization. He understands its foibles and recognizes its occasional failures. He also greatly admires it and has no doubt that the world would be a worse place without it."
Times Literary Supplement

“Forsythe's book is the most up-to-date and reliable account of the International Committee of the Red Cross. This is an important book for anyone seriously concerned with international humanitarianism. Highly recommended.”

"As Forsythe maintains, the ICRC has liberal goals and conservative means. It is fully embedded in Western democratic liberalism...but goes about promoting its liberal goals in a slow (sometimes frustratingly slow for many observers), methodical, non-confrontational way...Forsythe maintains that, with a few unfortunate has conducted itself with admirable independence."
Kurt Mills, Human Rights and Human Welfare

'… a welcome addition to the literature on this important subject … well worth the read.' International Affairs

'… a solid overview and detailed account of the International Committee of the Red Cross … the book should appeal to both generalists and specialists. Students, diplomats and concerned citizens will benefit from a greater understanding of the ICRC and the Red Cross movement's history and role in the international system. Humanitarians, developmentalists/diplomats and security professionals, on the other hand, can gain from its detailed insight to the ICRC's inner workings, role in contemporary conflicts and internal dilemmas.' German Red Cross

'This important new book … is essential reading for anyone interested in world politics. … this is the most compelling book to combine history with analysis. It is judicious, timely and well researched.' Political Studies Review