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The Context of Crisis
The challenge of crisis response

The Need for Advocacy
A model for international response to unfolding crises


ICG's Organisation
A brief history of ICG and an overview of the organisation

ICG Governance and Staff
ICG's Organisational structure and staff

ICG's International Board

ICG's Annual Review
Details of ICG's work during 1996-1997


A New Perspective
An introduction to ICG's modus operandi

A New Catalyst for Peace
How ICG aims to enhance and strengthen crisis response

The ICG Approach
ICG's crisis response mechanism



The arrival of the much-heralded New World Order has been marred by a succession of brutal and bloody conflicts, the disintegration of states and power blocs and endemic instability and insecurity. Ethnic rivalry, sectarian violence, extreme nationalism and other centrifugal forces have gathered strength in many parts of the world, undermining international stability and placing international organisations, such as the UN, under enormous pressure to respond. The evident failure of such organisations to avert disasters in Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda and elsewhere is due not just to the pressure of a vastly increased workload and mounting budgetary constraints but also, critically, to an increasing reluctance on the part of many national governments to become involved in potential crises early enough to prevent their escalation.

Lack of political will often means that intervention is delayed for so long that, when finally attempted, it is already too late to prevent a humanitarian disaster. At which point all available resources have to be devoted to providing costly emergency relief to the victims. In recent years, far too much money and effort have had to be spent treating the symptoms of crises-the displacement of civilians and problems of food distribution and so on-while far too little has gone into addressing their root causes.

The ICG Approach

ICG seeks to break out of this pattern of failure by acting as a stimulus for conflict prevention and international action at an earlier stage. ICG's approach varies according to the nature of an impending crisis and the type of preventive action required to cope with it. In certain instances, ICG will seek to give greater prominence to information already gathered by other NGOs in the field. In others, ICG staff may be posted to a country for a period to consult widely and produce an analysis. High-profile visits to potential crisis zones by ICG board members may also form part of the strategy.

Typically, ICG's approach can be broken down into the following stages:

  1. Identify countries that are on the road to crisis or where there is an existing crisis which could dramatically worsen;
  2. Engage with all the relevant players in those countries - including government and military leaders, opposition groups, business, relief NGOs and religious, ethnic and other groups;
  3. Develop strategic, integrated policy proposals aimed at strengthening local and regional stability and avoiding the development or escalation of crises; and
  4. Alert the international community to the risk of crises and-via its board of trustees and the media-bring pressure to bear on governments, international organisations and relevant sections of the business community to take timely, preventive or remedial action.

The international profile, experience and seniority of its board members provide the key that enables ICG to reach and influence decision-makers at all levels of the international community. At the same time, ICG's private, non-governmental status enables the organisation to avoid many of the political, institutional, and bureaucratic constraints under which other international organisations often operate. ICG will, in many cases, be able to side-step obstacles which often impede official delegations, or members of governmental bodies, in their efforts to visit and assist trouble-spots.

In the years since the ending of the Cold War, the international community has repeatedly shown itself to be either incapable of acting early enough to prevent the proliferation of crises arising from human causes, or reluctant to do so. As a result, millions of civilians have been killed, maimed and forced to leave their homes; states have disintegrated, ethnic tensions have boiled over into violent clashes and chaos has been allowed to tear away at the stability of the international system. Expensive humanitarian relief operations have been necessary to help clean up the mess left in the wake of crises that never should have been allowed to develop unchallenged in the first place.

For those of us who return home each night to be confronted by appalling scenes of human misery on the evening news, the current situation is surely intolerable. We cannot stand by and watch while governments and international organisations downplay warnings of potential crises or postpone decisions on how to respond until the last chance to avoid a full-blown catastrophe has already passed.

ICG has been established to pick up early signals of impending crises and stimulate a more prompt and effective response from the international community. The organisation is unique in that it combines access to accurate information in the field and an ability to provide comprehensive assessments of potential crises with the capacity to influence decision-makers at all levels and in various sectors of the international community. We may not be able to guarantee that there will be no further Rwandas, Somalias or Bosnias, but we can make a recurrence of such humanitarian obscenities less likely by taking earlier, international action to prevent the escalation of crises more likely.

The task facing ICG is enormous-but not to try is unthinkable. ICG has a heavyweight board, first class policy analysts and field personnel, the confidence of key sections of the international community and the financial backing, so far, of ten governments and a number of private sector donors. It is an organisation with an important mission and a great deal of potential. However it does not yet have enough funding. For ICG to maximise its potential, extra financial support from both public and private sector donors will be vital.

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