Peter Maurer is the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) observing first-hand the humanitarian crisis caused by COVID-19 and armed conflict. Despite a call last year from the United Nations for global cease-fires as the pandemic raged, violence continued and even increased around the world. Maurer discusses what can be done to tackle global inequities and what he sees as the greatest humanitarian crises in the years ahead.

Highlights

Peter Maurer worries if the political process in Afghanistan doesn’t lead to “legitimate governance,” the conflict in the country will continue, and ICRC’s work there will become more difficult. “I fear that if yet again a domestic… political process does not lead to legitimate governance in Afghanistan, we will see a protracted conflict continuing, and some of the protection work from women and children and civilians… being at least as difficult as we saw it in the last couple of years.” (Washington Post Live)
Peter Maurer said the International Committee of the Red Cross is often more worried about the psychological damage on people in conflict areas than the physical destruction left by fighting. “As in any war, there is massive destruction of buildings, or infrastructure… What is more important I think is what they see and hear in conversations with people in Israel and in Gaza. And this is the psychological impact of his warfare which has lasted more than a week. It’s the day and night insecurity, the trauma of men, women, children who have been exposed to it, and I think that’s what worries us sometimes even more than the physical destruction we witness.” (Washington Post Live)
Peter Maurer said the covid-19 pandemic has shut off informal avenues of income in conflict regions, and has pushed more than 100 million people into poverty. “When governments in some of the conflict regions take measures to curb the pandemic, it has massive impact on the weak, informal economic sector, it kicks out of income possibilities, hundreds and thousands and millions of people… The World Bank has estimated that we have accumulated more than 120 or 150 million people who have slided below the poverty line with covid.” (Washington Post Live)
The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer said children in camps like Al Hol in Syria haven’t had sustained school or stable housing in more than two years. “For the kids in those camps, that’s more than 40,000 children below 12 years of age which haven’t seen sustained schooling efforts, which have lived in tents, and makeshift, provisional habitat. It’s a very difficult situation.” (Washington Post Live)
“The delicate message that I’m giving tonight is that… on the one side we need to be able to cope with emergencies, we need to have more states more generously participating in the global burden sharing, more international organizations participating … and at the same time we need to find income generating activities earlier on to help people stand on their own feet.” (Washington Post Live)

Peter Maurer

Provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Peter Maurer was born in Thun, Switzerland, in 1956. He studied history and international law in Bern, where he was awarded a doctorate. In 1987 he entered the Swiss diplomatic service, where he held various positions in Bern and Pretoria before being transferred to New York in 1996 as deputy permanent observer at the Swiss mission to the United Nations. In 2000 he was appointed ambassador and head of the human security division in the political directorate of the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs in Bern.

In 2004 Mr Maurer was appointed ambassador and permanent representative of Switzerland to the United Nations in New York. In this position, he worked to integrate Switzerland, which had only recently joined the United Nations, into multilateral networks. In June 2009, the UN General Assembly elected Mr Maurer chairman of the Fifth Committee, in charge of administrative and budgetary affairs. In addition, he was elected chairman of the Burundi configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. In January 2010 Mr Maurer was appointed secretary of State for foreign affairs in Bern and took over the reins of the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs, with its five directorates and some 150 Swiss diplomatic missions around the world. He succeeded Jakob Kellenberger as ICRC president on 1 July 2012.

Under his leadership, the ICRC carries out humanitarian work in over 80 countries. Mr Maurer's priorities for his presidency include strengthening humanitarian diplomacy, engaging States and other actors for the respect of international humanitarian law, and improving the humanitarian response through innovation and new partnerships.

Since taking over the presidency of the ICRC, Mr Maurer has led the organization through a historic budget increase, from 1.1bn CHF in 2011 to over 1.8bn CHF in 2016.