Message from Senator George J. Mitchell, ICG Chair

Senator Mitchell
George J. Mitchell is a former US Senator for the State of Maine and served for six years as US Senate Majority Leader. In addition to his role as ICG Chairman, he also serves, at the request of British and Irish governments, as Chairman of the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland.

It is now almost three years since a group of prominent international figures gathered in London to discuss plans for the creation of the International Crisis Group (ICG).

The idea that brought them together was simple but powerful. The Cold War had ended, leaving behind it a backwash of messy internal and regional conflicts and crises-festering sores on the international scene which, to treat effectively, would require a good deal of imagination, patience and persistence on the part of world policymakers.

Many countries found themselves in a precarious position and the seeds of future potential conflicts were widely spread. The Balkans had dissolved into a long, bloody and costly war. Somalia had collapsed, dragging down with it the reputation of the international community. And Rwanda had exploded into a terrifying genocide that left up to a million dead and threatened to destabilise the entire central African region.

If the world wanted to avoid slipping into a new era of chaos and violence, policy-makers needed first to better understand the problems confronting countries at risk of crisis and then to develop new thinking on ways to overcome those problems and contribute to the creation of stronger, safer and more stable civil societies. In this respect, ICG was designed to help plug a widening international information gap. The organisation seeks to provide governments and others with an independent source of information, analysis and ideas and, in that way, contribute to the development of more coherent and effective policy responses to international problems.

But ICG's founders recognised that we need more than just greater understanding, new ideas and policy pamphlets to solve world problems. We also need action-informed, appropriate and timely action.

And so the concept of ICG was born. An independent non-profit, professional organisation, with an influential voice, able to develop serious, credible proposals on how the international community can respond more effectively to signs of impending crises and, at the same time, capable of mobilising support for such proposals among key decision-takers.

When a group of founding Board members approached me and asked me to become Chairman of the ICG Board, I accepted immediately. I thought at the time that ICG represented a bold and interesting, if untested, idea. I believe the organisation's efforts over the two and a half years since its launch have delivered some very encouraging results. We have really begun to demonstrate-through our work in Bosnia, the wider Balkans and in west Africa-the value that ICG can bring by providing an objective assessment of complex situations, an unvarnished critique of the international response and constructive, relevant recommendations on how we can do better.

Finally, I would like, on behalf of the Board and staff of ICG, to mark here our great appreciation of the role played by ICG's late president Nicholas Hinton in the creation and initial development of ICG. Nicholas led the organisation during its challenging first 18 months. His terrific energy, his steely determination and his sound judgement were key factors in establishing ICG as a viable, effective and respected organisation. Nicholas died suddenly and quite unexpectedly of a heart attack while on an ICG assignment in Bosnia in January 1997. All of us at ICG owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

Senator George J. Mitchell
ICG Chairman
January 1998.

[Message from the President]


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