A critical discussion between Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Michael Ignatieff, Professor of Practice, Harvard Kennedy School, moderated by Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Affairs.

The purpose of this session is to open an informal and frank discussion on the role of the ICRC in increasingly challenging operational environments, in particular in Syria and neighboring countries. The ICRC has been engaged in addressing the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Syria in the context of an increasingly politicized humanitarian world. Relief and protection operations led by the United Nations or implemented by international non-governmental organizations are increasingly integrated in global political and security strategies. These developments are compounded with the growing assertiveness of state and non-state actors toward humanitarian organizations in conflict zones, delimiting relief operations around political and security needs, and often challenging core humanitarian values and norms. The discussion will focus on the ways to enhance independent and neutral humanitarian action in these challenging circumstances and how humanitarian diplomacy can exert a positive influence toward the protection of victims of war.

ICRC President Peter Maurer plays a key role in humanitarian diplomacy. As part of his official attribution, he meets regularly with heads of states, world leaders and renowned intellectuals to draw the attention of the international community toward humanitarian imperatives in current conflicts. He is involved a several high-level negotiation of access to victims of armed conflict. His visit to the Kennedy School of Government takes place in the context of the 150th anniversary of the ICRC and of the first Geneva Convention of 1864.