ICGAnnual Report1995-96

World in Crisis

"If all the conflicts, collapses, and atrocities of the last five years have taught us anything it is that it is cheaper, kinder and wiser to head off crises before they develop, than to wait until after the event and then pick up the pieces."

ICG chair, Senator George J Mitchell

The past six or seven years have seen an explosion in the number of complex crises around the world. As each new crisis breaks, policy-makers in the west seem caught in the headlights, unsure of what to do or how and when to do it. The tragedies of the last few years tell a story of immeasurable human suffering and economic loss but they also demonstrate how poorly the world community responds to signs of crisis and instability and how reluctant decision-makers are to act decisively when preventive action is called for to stop crises escalating out of control.

IFOR in BosniaThe poor performance of the international community in preventing crises is understandable but it is not excusable. The Cold War, for all the terrible risks, costs and barriers it created, made for a more stable and predictable world order. International policy was developed according to fixed and clearly defined rules of engagement. Events around the world were viewed through the prism of East-West relations. Underlying ethnic tensions and disputes over resources were effectively kept in the deep-freeze during years when any minor conflict was treated as a potential trigger for east-west confrontation. On this basis it was relatively easy to explain why the US, for example, should spend money and risk lives shoring up unstable countries in Africa, Asia or central America as long as failure to do so might have resulted in those countries falling under Soviet influence. But with the spectre of the Soviet "threat" gone, and domestic opinion in most western countries turning ever more inward, it is much harder to make the case for international engagement. New rules, new rationales and a new resolve are all sorely needed.

The mass graves of Bosnia, Rwanda and Somalia bear grim testimony to the failure of the world community to adapt. Crises have developed unchecked. Millions have been killed, millions more thrown out of their homes. Billions of dollars have been spent providing humanitarian relief to the victims�five billion on emergency aid in one year alone. Billions more have gone on peacekeeping and the longer term task of reconstructing shattered infrastructure, buildings, roads and amenities. The wider economic fall-out can be felt even further afield as regional economies falter and businesses lose their investments, shedding jobs and pushing up prices.

The ICG Approach

It was against this backdrop that the International Crisis Group came into being. Established on 1 July 1995, ICG's mission is to help policy-makers at all levels of the international community to identify the root causes of actual and potential crises and to devise and implement strategies to prevent them developing into fully-fledged humanitarian disasters. ICG's front-line in this effort is its 41-strong board, whose members include former prime ministers, presidents and foreign ministers, parliamentarians, diplomats, journalists, business people and officials from the World Bank and UN agencies. The board is led by former Majority Leader of the US Senate, George Mitchell. Michel Rocard, former prime minister of France, Malcolm Fraser, former prime minister of Australia, George Soros, the American financier and Ed Turner of CNN are among the board members.

ICG's greatest strength lies in its special ability to combine strong and independent analysis of the causes of crises with high-level international advocacy aimed at building support for preventive solutions. The board draws on advice from ICG staff based both in-country and at the organisation's London office and seeks to generate wide international support for effective preventive policy measures.

Typically, ICG's approach can be broken down into three elements:

  • Analysis of potential and breaking crises
    and of preventive policy options

  • Advocacy of preventive action at international,
    regional and local levels.

  • Assistance for local initiatives

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