Yves Daccord is Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva, a post he has held since 2010. A former journalist, TV producer and international relations expert, his ICRC career has spanned more than two decades in a variety of posts and challenging contexts – including Israel and the Occupied Territories, Sudan, Yemen, Chechnya and Georgia. Prior to his appointment as Director-General, he held the posts of Head of Communication Division and Director of Communications. He assumed the chair of Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR) in January 2015.He holds a degree in political science. Born in 1964, Mr Daccord is married with three children.

Clare Dalton is the Head of Humanitarian Diplomacy at the ICRC, a position she began in 2016. She has served in various positions throughout ICRC, including Humanitarian Action Advisor and field work in Iraq, Nairobi, Darfur, and Angola. Prior to joining the ICRC she has held various positions with the British Red Cross and United Nations.

Yves Daccord, Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Clare Dalton, Head of Humanitarian Diplomacy at ICRC, joined the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School on March 7 to discuss the future of humanitarian diplomacy. Daccord reminded the audience that the original mission of the ICRC is dedicated to providing for people and communities impacted by war. What was once an organization created to support wounded soldiers, the ICRC is now an international organization with 16,000 employees in more than 80 countries.

The ICRC’s flexibility and independence is its greatest privilege, Daccord said, because it enables the organization to engage with non-state actors, including those deemed terrorist organizations by the international community, like the Taliban. He described the three to four-year long process of slowly gaining the trust of the Nigerian population, the Nigerian government, and a known terrorist organization like Boko Haram to be able to deliver aid to all regions affected by the conflict in the African country.

The nature of international conflict is changing, Daccord said. This had created new challenges to which the ICRC and other humanitarian organizations must adapt. Violent conflicts were increasingly longer lasting. The average length of war in the locations which the ICRC is currently working is 35 years. The conflicts in Libya and Ukraine would be no exceptions, Daccord speculated. These conflicts no longer have clear “winners.”

As a result, the ICRC has had to shift into thinking in a multi-year framework to deliver humanitarian aid in the long-term. With the extension of ground conflict, humanitarian needs were shifting. To stabilize conflict zones, the ICRC is now tasked with providing services such as Wi-Fi, mental health counselling, and education in addition to providing traditional humanitarian aid and meeting basic human needs.

With respect to the ongoing conflict in Syria, Daccord said that the shift in the nature of the conflict from a civil war to a proxy war between international actors at the cost of the Syrian people was a “a clear message that our diplomatic toolbox doesn’t work anymore.” It illustrated the increasing complexity of conflict caused by the lack of ability to forge consensus between states. Polarization is exacerbating the lack of trust among warring parties in Syria and in places like Yemen. To tackle the diverse nature of conflict in the 21st century, an equally diverse approach to their solution needed to be developed - a diversity of thinking, different perspectives, different opinions needed to make up international negotiation teams whether in traditional diplomacy or in the humanitarian arena. Only the application of varied experiences and viewpoints could create the type of durable agreements to end hostilities he said.