Magazine

Career Opportunities at the International Committee of the Red Cross

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an independent and neutral organization “ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence”. The ICRC’s work is based on the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and it is active in working in response to emergencies while promoting respect for international humanitarian law and its implementation in national laws.

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The ICRC currently hires around 16.800 professionals in over 80 countries to help people affected by armed conflict and other violence. The ICRC provides its staff with an opportunity to work in diverse teams around the world as well as apply their skills in the field. The ICRC employs the mobile field staff (hired on the Geneva based contract and can be deployed in any country where there is a need); resident field staff (hired on a local contract and needs to be national or have a permanent work permit in the country); mobile headquarters staff (hired on a Geneva-based contract with no limits to nationality with assignments limited to four years after which there is an opportunity to fill in other roles at the organization); and resident headquarters staff (hired on a Geneva-based contract with no limits to nationality with a maximum of four years assignment). If your wish is to work for the ICRC, you can keep an eye on open job posts. The ICRC also provides traineeship opportunities in 40 different sectors. The traineeships are held in Geneva with an aim “to give a first professional opportunity to graduates to develop their expertise and benefit from an enriching professional experience in the world’s leading humanitarian organization”.

The ICRC hires mobile staff dedicated to several main issues. Therefore, this article provides a brief overview of these categories for you to be able to better comprehend and relate your professional background to different activities.

  1. Field, Detention and Protection

Besides providing humanitarian protection to people affected by armed conflict, the ICRC also provides protection to those who were affected by other types of violence (i.e. when violence has not reached the threshold of an armed conflict but is carried out by large groups). This often involves visiting prisoners of war and civilian detainees, searching for missing persons, passing messages between family members separated by war, reuniting families as well as negotiating for humanitarian purposes and spreading the knowledge of international humanitarian law. Within this category, the ICRC employs delegates, prison systems advisers and delegates for the missing files.

  1. Health Care

One of the core values of the ICRC is treating and caring for the wounded and sick in armed conflict, other major violence and natural disasters. The ICRC is very active in addressing the main issues affecting the health of people by deploying its traditional health disciplines (i.e. first aid, war surgery, health care in detention) as well as primary health care, comprehensive hospital care, mental health and psychosocial support. The ICRC is committed to delivering and providing high quality health programs and often works with other organizations to bring together experts from different medical fields. Therefore, the ICRC is always in search for professionals such as doctors, nurses, nutritionists, pediatricians, surgeons, detention doctors, psychologists and similar.

  1. Water and Habitat

The ICRC is committed to relieving suffering in conflict areas by restoring essential services such as water, sanitation and power, as well as by renovating public infrastructure. The ICRC Water and Habitat Unit staff works directly on the field by assessing the needs of the most vulnerable people as well as designing, planning and overseeing projects in order to meet those needs. These activities often include negotiating with local authorities and civil society groups to get the essential services restored and working. In order to implement these activities, the ICRC often employs water and habitat engineers.

  1. Economic and Food Security

In order to improve, restore and maintain the food and economic security on the household levels, the ICRC often implements relief, livelihood and rehabilitation programs. It employs different modes of intervention in order to assist victims in a timely and flexible way. The activities in this field often revolve around cash or voucher programming, microeconomic initiatives, agriculture and veterinary related relief programs. The ICRC employs mobile field staff such as economic security delegates, agronomists, nutritionists, veterinarians and cash and market specialists.

  1. Armed Forces, Police and Weapon Contamination

One of the integral operations of ICRC is to maintain a dialogue with the armed forces around the world with an aim to ensure they know how to apply the principles of international humanitarian and human rights law properly. This implies a regular contact with armed forces, the police, irregular forces and non-state actors. The ICRC also deals with the issue of weapon contamination by undertaking clearance activities in order to ensure that unexploded bombs, shells and similar are removed. Thus, ICRC often hires delegates in charge of dealing with armed forces and non-state armed actors, relations with police and security forces as well as weapon contamination.

  1. Forensic Science

When people lose their lives during humanitarian crisis, their bodies must be “handled professionally and with utmost respect of their inherent dignity”. Their remains must be found, recovered, documented and identified. Therefore, the ICRC introduced the forensic science in its work as one of its core components. The forensic specialists work to develop and implement humanitarian forensic action worldwide and ensure the proper management of the dead as well as to assist in resolving and preventing the tragedy of missing persons and bring comfort to their families.

  1. Logistics

During the humanitarian crisis, the ICRC strives to help people by providing them with food, water and shelters. The organization deploys around 3.000 vehicles and has hundreds of warehouses across the globe, which hold emergency stocks worth 60 million Swiss francs. An additional 350 million francs of supplies are purchased each year. Around 3.000 employees, such as general logisticians, vehicle fleet managers, medical logisticians, purchasers, stock managers, air operations managers, mechanics and drivers who ensure that victims of armed conflict receive the necessary assistance.

  1. Human Resources, Finance and Administration

Being one of the largest organizations in the world, the ICRC is always in search for talented and bilingual (English and French) human resources and finance managers, data administrators and finance professions, willing to work for a humanitarian cause.

  1. Communication

One of the key elements to ensure respect for life and dignity of those affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence is communication. Therefore, the ICRC employs hundreds of field communication experts who contribute to facilitating access to people in need and reinforcing ICRC messages while calling for behavior change by those involved in armed conflict or violence. By using communication tools, the ICRC influences decision makers and the public by triggering and shaping the debate on the need to protect people in war.

  1. Languages

Interpreting different languages for the ICRC means “interpreting the spoken word as it also about being able to understand and integrate into a country’s culture and environment and the ability to connect with local people and establish trust”. The interpreters are often seen as an integral link between delegates and the beneficiaries. In order to follow its principles of neutrality and impartiality, the ICRC does not hire interpreters who originate from the country of the interpreted language. To become an interpreter at the ICRC you do not need a specific diploma.

  1. Information and Communication Technology

One of the ICRC’s strategies is implementing, designing and developing new technologies in order to maintain security and reliability of electronic data, as well as to provide high quality support and raise awareness of Information and Communication Technologies. In order to meet its strategies, the ICRC often hires ICT engineers who are specialized in wireless and satellite communication.

  1. Cooperation with the Movement

In order to ensure rational and rapid humanitarian responses, the ICRC works closely with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as well as with the International Federation. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the largest humanitarian network in the world which aims to assist all victims. Therefore, the ICRC often hires cooperation delegates in order to ensure the best possible cooperation with the Movement.

Take the free online course “Sustainable Development in Humanitarian Action” offered by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Click here!

About the author

Human Rights Careers

Human Rights Careers (HRC) aims to help human rights students, recent graduates and young professionals to pursue a career in the highly competitive field of human rights.