A form used for collecting information on the dead and on the handling of mortal remains and their burial to enable the proper handling and burial of mortal remains after a disaster. The use of the form is determined by the specific role of the Movement in a particular disaster. Responsibility for identifying dead bodies rests with the authorities. As a result, they are the primary recipients of the information that is collected and responsible for informing families of the death of relatives. When they are unable to discharge this responsibility, the information on this form may be used to provide enquirers with information regarding their missing family members.
This form is used to clarify the fate of individuals and to collect information on arrest, detention or death.
Any information obtained from relatives - or other sources - on the dead or the missing that can be compared with data obtained from mortal remains. As such information is both personal and sensitive; it must always be collected and processed in strict accordance with the domestic and international laws and regulations related to the protection of personal data.
A tool/software developed by the ICRC for managing, archiving, and standardizing data, as well as for matching ante-mortem and postmortem data to facilitate the identification of mortal remains.
A term used to describe the use of armed force by States against each other or protracted armed violence between governmental authorities and organized armed groups or between such groups within a State. An armed conflict may be international or noninternational in character. The term is often attached to the phrase “or other situations of violence;” please see 'other situations of violence' for definition.
Protection granted by a State, on its territory, to persons from another State who are fleeing persecution or substantial threats to their personal safety. Articles 1 and 31-33 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees seek to guarantee the right of asylum to all persons suffering persecution in their own countries. The idea of “asylum” includes a variety of elements, such as non-refoulement - the -2- permission to remain on the territory of the State granting asylum - and humane standards of treatment.
An individual who has sought protection in another State and on whose request or application for refugee status that country has not yet reached a decision.
A document provided by the ICRC when it is not possible for a former detainee to obtain proof of his or her detention from the authorities, or in certain special circumstances – after the end of an international armed conflict, for instance. The document is issued at the request of the individual concerned and on the basis either of information possessed by the authorities or of ICRC registration data that confirms that the person in question had been visited by ICRC delegates in prison and individually followed up.
A document issued by the ICRC attesting that it has obtained reliable information, from authorities or credible witnesses, of an individual’s death. It is not a legal document and may be issued only when official death certificates are unobtainable, and at the family’s request.
A formal process with specific procedural safeguards and documentation requirements that is conducted in behalf of certain children. It requires decision makers to weigh all the facts in any given case, always bearing in mind the rights and obligations set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights instruments, so that they may reach decisions that best protect the rights of the child, or the children, concerned. It is a means to ensure that specific protection and assistance is provided to children who are, or who may come to be, deprived of the protection of their families; it is also necessary for ensuring that all obligations and rights under international law are taken into account during the making of decisions that will have a decisive impact on children.
An approach that aims to strengthen the capacities of National Societies for action in specific areas, restoring family links or RFL, for instance. The process fosters, in National Societies, responsibility for and commitment to the pertinent programmes. As a result of this approach, relevant organizational structures and work processes are established, appropriate competencies developed, networks of relationships, within and beyond the Movement created, and the availability of necessary tools and working resources ensured. The ultimate purpose is the long-term sustainability of the programmes in question. In the area of RFL, the ICRC’s objective is to strengthen or maintain the capacity of National Societies to establish and maintain sustainable tracing services, at the national and the branch level, that will respond to the needs of separated families and play their part in the Family Links Network.
The former name of the Central Tracing Agency (see definition below); the term is used in the Geneva Conventions.
A permanent service within the ICRC, established in 1960 as the Central Information Agency, and run under the ICRC's direct responsibility in accordance with the provisions of the four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I of 8 June 1977, and with the statutes of the Movement. Originally set up to benefit protected persons in situations of international armed conflict, nowadays the CTA undertakes - in cooperation with the other components of the Movement – Restoring Family Links (RFL) activities during armed conflict and other situations of violence, in natural or other disasters and also in other circumstances that necessitate a humanitarian response (in such areas as migration, detention and social welfare). In line with the 1997 Seville Agreement, its 2005 Supplementary Measures and the 2007 RFL Strategy, the CTA has the lead role within the Movement in all matters related to tracing: it coordinates operations and acts as technical adviser to National Societies. The CTA also coordinates the tracing offices of the ICRC and provides assistance to State authorities for setting up and running national information bureaus as provided for by international humanitarian law.
Every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier [See 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child]. Children are entitled to all the protection provided by international humanitarian law for civilians, combatants and persons hors de combat. Recognizing their particular needs and vulnerability, humanitarian law also grants children special additional protection and sets a minimum age for their participation in hostilities. See also 'children associated with armed groups and armed forces,' 'reintegration of children,' 'separated children' and 'unaccompanied children/minors'.
Anyone under 18 years of age who is part of regular or irregular armed forces, or of an armed group, of any nationality, and who is used in any capacity - including but not limited to weapon bearers/combatants, cooks, porters, messengers and spies and anyone, other than family members, accompanying such groups. The term includes girls recruited for sexual purposes and for forced marriages. It also includes any child who is considered a deserter – or treated as one - for leaving / wanting to leave the armed forces or the armed group.
Terms that may be used interchangeably to describe everyone who is neither a member of the armed forces of a party to a conflict nor a participant in a levée en masse. All such persons are entitled to protection against direct attack unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities. When an individual’s status is in doubt, that person is presumed to be a civilian. Distinguishing between civilians and combatants and between civilian and military objectives is essential to ensure that civilians are protected during armed conflict.
In accordance with the principle of distinction in non-international armed conflict, all persons who are not members of State armed forces or of the organized armed groups of a party to the conflict are civilians and, therefore, entitled to protection against direct attack unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities. In noninternational armed conflict, organized armed groups constitute the armed forces of a non-State party to a conflict and consist only of individuals whose continuous function it is to take a direct part in hostilities (‘continuous combat function’).
A phrase used to describe all those activities whose aim is to find out what has happened to persons reported missing. These activities may include tracing individuals - which involves collecting and processing tracing requests – providing assistance to authorities for setting up an official apparatus for collecting and processing tracing requests, participating in official procedures for processing requests, managing and identifying mortal remains and many other related activities. During conflicts, the ICRC draws the parties' attention to their obligations under international humanitarian law; success, in these instances, is largely dependent on the willingness of the parties to the conflict to take up the issue and meet their responsibilities in full.
A term used to describe certain activities of the CTA. In accordance with the role entrusted to it by various resolutions and statutes, the CTA acts as coordinator and technical adviser in the areas of RFL and tracing. As coordinator, the CTA decides on the action to be taken in armed conflict or other situations of violence. In circumstances requiring an international effort, it coordinates the activities of National Society tracing services to ensure the most effective possible response to RFL needs.
The body where the representatives of the ICRC, the International Federation and the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies meet every two years to discuss and to take decisions on humanitarian issues of concern to the Movement.
Personal data refers to all information relating to an identified or identifiable individual. An identifiable individual is someone who can be identified, directly or indirectly, not only by his or her address, date of birth or place of origin, but also through an identity number or by reference to one or more factors specific to his or her physical, physiological, mental, economic, cultural, social or political identity. Personal data does not consist only of information such as name and physical features; it also includes such things as the opinion a person may have held or statements that the person may have made, and whether he or she took part in a certain demonstration or in the activities of a particular association.
Sensitive data refers to all personal data that can be used to the detriment of the individual to whom it relates. This includes all data likely to give rise to unlawful or arbitrary discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin, nationality, political opinions or activities, religious, philosophical and other beliefs, sexual behaviour, the existence of a criminal record, medical data or health information, including ante-mortem or post-mortem data or DNA profiles. While these types of data are nearly always considered to be sensitive, in certain circumstances almost every item of personal data may be regarded as sensitive.
Any operation or set of operations systematically performed on both personal and non-personal (event- or trend-related) data. The management of data consists of systematically collecting, processing, organizing, analysing, storing, archiving, using, disclosing, disseminating and destroying such data in accordance with defined working procedures. Carrying out its protection activities would be very difficult for the ICRC if it did not manage all the pertinent and reliable data on the problems faced by the population it aims to protect, on the causes - violations of the law, for instance - of these problems, on the individuals concerned, on its own activities, on the representations it has made, on the responses to such representations, and on the information exchanged among the organization, the authorities, National Societies and third parties. Practical guidance on the management of data related to the ICRC’s protection activities can be found in the manual titled Organization and Management of a Protection / Tracing Office.
Rules and measures whose aim is to ensure the security and protect the privacy of the individuals concerned and their relatives by safeguarding their personal data. Data protection creates rights for individuals whose personal data have been collected and processed, and responsibilities for those who collect and store these data.
The rules on the protection of data place emphasis on the process of collecting and processing data - it must be fair and limited to what is necessary for the purpose identified - on appropriate safeguards for sensitive data, on securing the consent of the person concerned for collecting and using personal data related to him or her, and on his or her right to access data and challenge their accuracy. Basing itself on these rules, ICRC Doctrine 28 (on the missing and their families) sets out operational guidelines for the organization - for managing and protecting data, especially regarding their publication and how they may be shared with third parties. The protection of data is crucial for the ICRC as its effectiveness and credibility, and the security of the individuals it seeks to protect, depend on the proper management of personal data, which may sometimes contain sensitive information.
A legal document issued by a competent authority - but never by the ICRC - which states the date, location and cause of a person's death. When it is impossible to obtain an official death certificate, and should a family ask for one, the ICRC may issue an attestation of knowledge of death (see above).
A sudden, calamitous event that seriously disrupts the functioning of a community or society and causes human, material, economic and/or environmental losses that exceed the community’s or society’s ability to cope using its own resources. Although their causes are often natural, disasters can also be man-made.
The organization and management of resources and responsibilities for dealing with all the humanitarian issues that arise during emergencies - especially preparedness, response and recovery - in order to mitigate the impact of disasters. The organization and management of resources and responsibilities for dealing with all the humanitarian issues that arise during emergencies - especially preparedness, response and recovery - in order to mitigate the impact of disasters.
Activities undertaken in advance to ensure that individuals and communities will be in a position to make a planned, timely and effective response to a disaster, and to withstand or lessen its impact.
Coordinated activities aimed at meeting the needs of those who are suffering from the consequences of a disaster
The molecular structure in living cells in which genetic information, for the transmission of inherited traits, is coded. DNA samples can be drawn from an individual's blood, saliva, or less intrusively, from samples of his or her hair. As they are personal and sensitive data, these samples must at all times be collected and processed in accordance with domestic and international laws and regulations related to the protection of personal data.
Molecular testing methodology to establish the presence or absence of a particular sequence of DNA, which is the hereditary or genetic material present in nearly every cell in the human body. DNA analysis is a scientific method that can be used to identify mortal remains by comparing samples that may have been taken from the same person. Since all blood relatives share a similar sequence of DNA, it can be used also to ascertain relationships among individuals by comparing their DNA material.
The natural and fundamental group unit of society, it is entitled to protection by society and the State [See the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art.23 (1)]. There is no universally accepted definition of the term. It should be understood to include children born in and out of wedlock, adopted children and stepchildren, lawfully wedded partners and unwedded partners, parents including stepparents and adoptive parents, and full or half or adopted sisters and brothers. However, in many socio-cultural contexts, a family is more than this: it includes all those persons who live under the same roof or maintain close relationships among themselves. Thus, the concept of family has to be understood based on societal practice and recognitions by way of culture, as well as by way of prolonged emotional dependency and mutual acceptance of the relationships. Wherever there are no major obstacles, RFL services should be extended to non-direct relatives and even to friends and neighbours, if this increases the chances of locating those being sought.
A network composed of the CTA, the tracing agencies in ICRC delegations and the RFL/tracing services/departments within National Societies in charge of RFL-related activities. Addressing itself to the needs of people without news of their families, the network provides essential humanitarian services with the aim of restoring family links.
Information of a strictly personal nature exchanged between family members separated by armed conflict, other situations of violence, natural or man-made disasters, international migration or other situations requiring a humanitarian response. The Family Links Network acts as a neutral intermediary in facilitating the exchange of family news through various means, the choice of which is determined by situation and context.
The process of reuniting family members who have been involuntarily separated during armed conflict or other situations of violence, natural or man-made disasters, international migration, or other hardships. This process is set in motion after contact has been restored and family members have formally agreed to the reunification, and when permitted by security conditions. It takes the following factors into account: the situation of the most vulnerable family members, the best interests of the persons concerned, the relevant international and national legislation and the requirements of the specific situation.
A form that has to be completed and signed by the receiving relatives, during an interview with a Movement staff member or volunteer, before the reunification.
An appraisal of the extent of family separation and of the current situation of the children who are affected. It is carried out in order to ensure that all the measures involved in a family reunification give primary consideration to the child's best interests. A special form for evaluating the suitability of family reunification for unaccompanied/ separated children is available.
A form that has to be completed by family members, during an interview with a Movement staff member or volunteer, and signed by the relative requesting family reunification.
An ICRC programme that enables families to visit detained relatives. The activities undertaken in the programme, which is run by the ICRC or jointly with a National Society, range from providing financial support, organizing transportation or ensuring that families can visit their detained relatives to full substitution (see substitution).
A form used to evaluate the situation of a child after family reintegration. The evaluation is carried out during a follow-up visit.
The arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law [see the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance].
Note: At the ICRC, forced disappearance is the preferred term.
A term used to describe the methods - autopsies, fingerprinting, dental examinations and DNA analyses - that may be used to identify human or mortal remains (body, bodies and/or body parts of a dead person or persons) and thus help to ascertain the fate of missing persons.
Note: In some instances the term 'remains' may also be used, but 'mortal remains' is to be preferred whenever a choice has to be made.
A document that is used to attest to the fact that a person has passed through the hands of the ICRC, has been ‘handed over.’ These certificates are used during transfers, evacuations, repatriations, resettlement, and during family reunifications.
The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation [see the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime].
An official examination carried out by someone whose ability to do so is recognized by competent State authorities, for the purpose of establishing the identity of a person or remains thereof.
Note: In some instances the term 'remains' may also be used, but 'mortal remains' is to be preferred whenever a choice has to be made.
A person who has been forced or obliged to flee or to leave his or her home or place of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who has not crossed an internationally recognized State border [see 1998 UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement]. International law does not provide a definition of internally displaced persons that is universally accepted. The ICRC uses the definition provided by the UN Guiding Principles.
A component of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement that, basing its action on the Fundamental Principles of the Movement, works to inspire, facilitate and promote all the humanitarian activities undertaken by its member National Societies to improve the situation of those who are most vulnerable. Founded in 1919, the International Federation directs and coordinates the Movement's international assistance to victims of natural and technological disasters, to refugees, and in health emergencies. It acts as the official international representative of its member Societies. It promotes cooperation between National Societies and works to strengthen their capacity to carry out effective disaster-preparedness, health and social programmes.
For more information, see the page The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
A worldwide humanitarian movement whose mission is to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found, to protect life and health and ensure respect for the human being, particularly during armed conflict and other emergencies, to work for the prevention of disease and for the promotion of health and social welfare, and to encourage voluntary service, a constant readiness to give help by the members of the Movement and a universal sense of solidarity with all those in need of its protection and assistance.
For more information, see the page Who we are.
An organization founded specifically to serve the victims of Nazi persecution and their families; it does so by documenting their fate through the archives it manages. The International Tracing Service maintains records of Germans and non-Germans who were detained in Nazi concentration camps or labour camps or other detention sites, and of non-Germans used as forced labourers on the territory of the Third Reich during World War II; it makes its archives available to researchers. Its headquarters are in Bad Arolsen, Germany and it is directed and managed by the ICRC. The International Tracing Service has its basis in the Bonn Agreements.
A person who enters a country without the necessary documents and permits. He or she therefore has no legal status in the country.
An organizational concept for managing international operational activities. When an organization is designated the lead agency in a particular situation it means that this organization has been entrusted with the task of directing and coordinating international operational activities in that situation. It is a temporary responsibility which depends on specific circumstances and the capacities of the host National Society, the International Federation or the ICRC.
A permanent responsibility for guiding and coordinating components of the Movement within a specific area of competence. The idea of a “lead role” implies the existence of other partners with rights and responsibilities in that area of competence. For example, the International Federation has the lead role within the Movement with regard to capacity building activities and the coordination of international development support for National Societies.
Amongst other fields, the ICRC has the lead role in RFL, as laid out in the RFL Strategy. The permanent role of the ICRC/CTA within the Movement's Family Links Network involves coordinating the Family Links Network, including operational coordination in situations requiring an international response from the Movement, as well as providing technical advice, guidelines and working tools for the Movement in order to strengthen consistency, competence and capacity within the Family Links Network.
Measures aimed at ensuring the proper identification and handling of dead bodies, which includes handing them over to the families. These measures involve recovering, transporting, storing and identifying human remains, issuing death certificates and authorizing or ordering burials or cremations.
Depending on the context and circumstances, the management of human remains is the duty and the sole responsibility of either the relevant authorities (judicial, police, health, municipal, military, etc.) or the parties to the conflict, but as a general rule, forensic specialists should be involved in all work related to human remains and the role of the Movement negotiated with the authorities (this may include any or all of the following: providing guidance or expert advice to the authorities, collecting information on the dead, being in charge of the actual handling of dead bodies, their storage and burial, or providing support to the families of victims).
Migrants are persons who leave or flee their habitual residence to go to new places – usually abroad – to seek opportunities or safer and better prospects. Migration can be voluntary or involuntary, but most of the time a combination of choices and constraints are involved. Thus, the International Federation’s policy on migration includes, among others, labour migrants, stateless migrants, and migrants deemed irregular by public authorities. It also concerns refugees and asylum seekers, notwithstanding the fact that they constitute a special category under international law.
Note: Migrants constitute one category among the many different populations involved in the process of migration. Movement resolutions distinguish clearly between migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons.
The process of moving across an international border. The term encompasses every kind of movement of people, whatever its length, composition and causes; it includes the migration of refugees, displaced persons, uprooted persons, and economic migrants.
A term used to describe soldiers or combatants who disappeared during military operations.
Someone whose family has no news of him or her or who, based on reliable information, is listed as missing in relation to armed conflict or other situation of violence, or after a natural disaster. ‘Family’ must be understood in the broadest sense of the word – that is, family members and close friends - and within the cultural context. Missing persons and their families are direct victims of armed conflict or internal violence. As such they are part of the mandate of the ICRC.
An office mandated by the government in charge of collecting and transmitting information, documents and objects concerning persons protected by international humanitarian law who have fallen into the hands of an adverse party, in particular prisoners of war and civilian internees.
Autonomous national organizations that embody the work and principles of the Movement in 188 countries. They act as auxiliaries to the public authorities of their own countries in the humanitarian field and provide a range of services including disaster relief, health and social programmes. During wartime, National Societies assist the affected civilian population and support army medical services where appropriate.
For more information, see the page National societies.
A term used to describe a systematic approach, based on continuous learning, to improve the ability of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to make the most effective use of their human and financial resources, in order to achieve the humanitarian purposes of the Movement in ways that can be sustained. The animating principle in organizational development is planned and systematic management of change.
A child, both of whose parents are known to be dead. In some countries, the term is also used to describe a child who has lost only one parent.
“Other situations of violence” refers to internal disturbances and tensions – riots and isolated and sporadic acts of violence - and similar acts of violence, widespread banditry, for instance. This term may also be used to describe crimes committed by persons taking advantage of a state of tension or disturbance. It may also include situations that, though below the threshold of internal disturbances or tensions, cause problems in humanitarian terms and that may require the ICRC to take action in its capacity as a specifically neutral and independent organization.
Form of cooperation between National Societies, in which they interact directly, offering resources and support to each other and sharing their knowledge in order to achieve similar goals.
Any information that can be obtained from a body, or from property, clothing or jewellery attached to the body, that can be compared with ante-mortem data and used to identify the person and establish the cause of his or her death. As such information is both personal and sensitive; it must always be collected and processed in strict accordance with the domestic and international laws and regulations related to the protection of personal data.
All those activities aimed at avoiding or minimizing the risk of further separations and disappearances. They include such preventive measures as registering, issuing bracelets or identity tags, establishing meeting points for and disseminating key messages to people from the area affected, as well as carrying on a direct dialogue with the authorities to remind them of their responsibility to protect all those at risk.
Measures that help to avoid or minimize the risk of further separation of families and that should be considered in the event of an evacuation or other movement of population. They include registering, issuing bracelets or identity tags, establishing meeting points for and disseminating key messages to people from the area affected.
Combatants or individuals of equivalent legal status who fall into the hands of an opposing party. Among those covered by this definition are war correspondents, supply contractors, crews of the merchant marine, civil aviation personnel and persons who spontaneously take up arms to resist invading troops [see Geneva Convention III, art. 4). In case of doubt, captured individuals taking part in hostilities are presumed to be prisoners of war [see Additional Protocol I, art. 45]. The definition excludes those engaging in espionage [see AP I, art. 46] and mercenaries [see AP I, art. 47].
Individuals who are protected by rules laid down in treaty or customary international humanitarian law - and thus enjoy certain rights when they are in the power of the enemy – particularly the following: the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, prisoners of war and other persons deprived of liberty in relation to armed conflict, civilians and other persons not or no longer taking a direct part in the fighting, medical and religious personnel, the staff of relief operations, and the staff of civil defence organizations [see the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols].
A term used to describe all activities whose aim is to ensure that authorities and other actors fulfill their obligations and uphold the rights of individuals. They are undertaken in order to preserve the lives, security, dignity, and physical and mental well-being of victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. They also attempt to -13- prevent or put an end to actual or probable violations of international humanitarian law or other bodies of law or of fundamental rules protecting people in these situations.
A term used to describe activities, based on the ICRC's confidentiality policy, whose aim is to preserve the security of the individuals concerned and that of their relatives. Personal data are collected lawfully and in the best interests of the person in question: the confidentiality, relevance and quality of such data must be ensured, the person concerned told why it was collected, and his informed consent secured. This applies also to the sharing or the publication of personal data.
Established in each delegation to manage data and information related to all protection activities (restoring family links, detention, protection of civil population). It plays a vital role in monitoring persons and events as well as the representations made by the ICRC and the protection activities carried out by the organization. The main tasks of the protection/tracing office are centralizing, cross-checking, analysing, classifying, transmitting, and verifying or confirming the quality of protection data; it is responsible also for receiving visitors and dealing with enquiries.
A tool used in the tracing process to establish and publish lists of separated children; of those who are 'safe and well’; of the injured, the dead or the missing; and of persons in search of their relatives. Such lists can be drawn up on the basis of data that has been collected and cross-checked by the RC, provided by the authorities or other reliable actors or given by an individual. The lists can be posted on the Family Links Website, published in newspapers or magazines, broadcast on radio or television, displayed in poster form or in books of pictures, or simply on sheets of paper.
Unsealed letters consisting of a standard form, two pages long, that can be detached and retained by the beneficiary. The first page is used by the sender for his or her message. The second page contains the reply. The identities and full addresses of the sender and his correspondent appear on both pages. Red Cross messages (RCM) enable relatives to exchange news only of a personal nature.
A person who, owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or for political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country [see the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951].
During the implementation of the RFL Strategy, the ICRC will explore the possibility to establish regional ICRC/CTA units with a mandate to explore RFL-related issues from the regional perspective, and to develop plans to address these issues with the National Societies concerned. These units should become regional focal points for capacity building, professional development, networking and exchanging information.
The process of gathering, recording and managing the personal data, as well as ascertaining the whereabouts, of a person identified as vulnerable. It is done for the purpose of preventing separation, or reducing the risk of it happening; strengthening protection for that person; tracing his or her relatives; or organizing a family reunion.
A process that enables children, in the context of local and national reconciliation, to re-enter civil society and assume substantial roles and identities as civilians who have won the acceptance of their families and communities. Sustainable reintegration may be said to have been achieved when the political, legal, economic and social conditions necessary for children to preserve their lives, livelihood and dignity have been secured. This process aims to ensure children’s access to their rights: formal and non-formal education, family unity, dignified livelihoods and safety from harm.
A term commonly used to describe all those persons who share a legal or natural relationship, such as children born in and out of wedlock, adopted children and stepchildren, lawfully wedded partners and unwedded partners, parents including step-parents and adoptive parents, and full or half or adopted sisters and brothers.
In international humanitarian law, repatriation is the return or transfer of protected persons, formerly held by a party to the conflict, to their home countries. Usually, it is civilian internees, prisoners of war, and the wounded, sick and deceased who are repatriated.
A form used to report the results of an investigation conducted within the framework of active tracing activities.
The transfer of refugees from a country in which they have sought refuge to another that has agreed to admit them.
A term used to describe activities that provide individuals affected by armed conflict, other situations of violence, natural or man-made disasters, international migration or other situations requiring a humanitarian response the possibility of getting in touch with their relatives, or remaining in touch with them. These activities consist mainly of providing separated family members with the means to communicate with one another and organizing the reunification of families.
For more information, see the page Restoring contact.
A term used to describe various activities aimed at preventing separation, restoring and maintaining contact between family members and clarifying what has happened to persons reported missing. Those activities include organizing the exchange of family news, tracing individuals, registering and following up individuals to prevent their disappearance and to enable families to be informed of their whereabouts, reuniting and repatriating families, collecting, managing and forwarding information on the dead, forwarding official documents and issuing travel documents. The components of the Movement undertake RFL activities whenever required and for as long as needed, helping people whose loved ones are unaccounted for or who are separated from them as a consequence of armed conflict and other situations of violence, natural or man-made disasters, international migration or other situations requiring a humanitarian response.
A 10-year plan developed by the ICRC and adopted by the Council of Delegates in November 2007. Its aims are to develop the capacities of the tracing services of National Societies and to strengthen the Movement’s role and response in the field of restoring family links. It was launched in response to the Agenda for Humanitarian Action adopted by the 28th International Conference in 2003.
This survey has been undertaken between 2005-2006 by the ICRC and National Societies to assess the state of the Family Links Network. The tracing services of the various National Societies were evaluated, as was the capacity of the ICRC/CTA to act as coordinator and technical adviser on RFL to National Societies; a preliminary RFL needs assessment was also carried out.
A group composed of National Societies, the International Federation and the ICRC. It was established by the ICRC/CTA to provide guidance and support in the implementation process for the “RFL Strategy for the Movement (2008 – 2018)” as well as to develop the criteria for its success and indicators to measure that success. The Group will, as a priority, clarify what success would look like if the Movement were to achieve the strategic objectives and individual actions, and devise guidelines to measure that success.
A process used to obtain an in-depth understanding of a given situation in order to identify the problems, their origins and their consequences. The aim of the assessment is not to determine if a given activity is possible, but rather to determine if it is necessary. The aim of an RFL needs assessments is to identify the actual and potential needs of separated family members in a specific situation requiring an RFL response.
A group of RFL specialists who can be deployed at short notice in rapid-onset emergencies during disasters, thus ensuring that an RFL operation will be an integral part of the Movement's response. The Pool compromises approximately 60 staff from the ICRC (expatriates and delegation employees) and National Societies who have a mix of skills, backgrounds and languages were selected and trained to respond rapidly in disasters. It is maintained by the CTA, which is responsible for managing the group and activating it at the request of the Movement component(s) in question, in accordance with clearly defined procedures.
A right inherent in the universal recognition that the family is the fundamental group unit of society and entitled to protection and assistance. This right is enshrined in numerous universal and regional human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in treaties of international humanitarian law such as Additional Protocol 1 of 8 June 1977.
A right of the families to know the fate of their relatives is stated explicitly in Articles 32, 33 and 34 of Additional Protocol I of 8 June 1977, and reaffirmed by resolutions of the 26th and 27th International Conference that require all parties to an armed conflict to ensure that every effort is made to clarify the fate of all persons unaccounted for and to inform the families accordingly.
Children separated from both parents, or from their previous legal or customary primary care-giver, but not necessarily from other relatives. A group of ‘separated children’ may, therefore, include children accompanied by other adult relatives.
A person who has lost contact with his or her family as a consequence of an armed conflict or other situation of violence, or after a natural disaster.
A person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law [see the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954)].
Direct action taken by the ICRC to meet the needs of the people or populations affected when the competent authorities do not take or are unable to take appropriate measures (owing to lack of means, or unwillingness, or when no such authorities exist). If the situation is critical, the ICRC acts first and then speaks to the authorities to persuade them to take appropriate measures or to help them examine possible solutions.
A phrase used to describe the response to the material, financial, psychological and legal needs of families with missing relatives. In this regard, a number of activities may be undertaken, among them providing support for associations whose role is to help the families and parents of missing persons, contributing if necessary to the psychological or social welfare of persons in need, contributing to the provision of legal services in order to clarify families' legal difficulties and facilitating families' social integration.
A title granted by various resolutions of the Movement's statutory bodies, in particular those of the 25th and 26th International Conferences, to the CTA. As technical adviser on RFL, the CTA’s task is to promote consistency, competence and capacity within the Family Links Network; and its mandate is to establish working practices, provide technical advice, guidelines and working tools for tracing services in all situations and to hold training seminars and regional meetings for the purpose of pooling experience and consolidating shared knowledge.
A service provided to the general public that can be put to various purposes. It enables people to phone a call centre, using a wellpublicized free telephone number, to provide information about their whereabouts or that of their relatives by transmitting 'Safe and Well' messages. It makes it possible for Red Cross and Red Crescent staff members to receive information about specific areas or about particularly vulnerable groups. Enquirers can receive information on affected areas or be referred to organizations that can help them.
A term used for calls made by mobile, satellite or video phones in order to restore and maintain contact between separated family members. As it is a direct and rapid means of restoring family links, telephone calls should be considered when first contacting relatives to reassure them. In some cases, providing more phone credits to beneficiaries or assistance in reloading their cell phones will enable families to get back in touch. Video-teleconference calls may be used as a temporary substitute for family visits to places of detention.
Database available through an extranet for the tracing services of National Societies or through Lotus Notes for ICRC delegations. It is an operational tool that facilitates the sharing of RFL tools and guidelines and provides members of the Family Links Network with contacts and addresses, summaries of RFL activities in each context or other useful RFL information or forms.
Services within ICRC delegations. They are in charge of RFL/tracing activities and form part of the worldwide Family Links Network. They help to set up protection/tracing offices.
A term used to describe all activities related to the search for missing family members. These activities are undertaken by the ICRC and National Societies in response to families’ right to know what has happened to their missing relatives.
The various tracing measures and procedures – such as specific mechanisms for tracing, field tracing, consulting authorities, and making enquiries - should be adapted to the cultural context, target the most vulnerable groups and guarantee systematic follow-up of pending cases. In situations not related to a conflict or natural disaster, the Movement may process tracing requests on compassionate grounds, but the reasons for conducting the search should be strictly humanitarian. The sought person, when located, should be asked whether he or she wishes to inform the enquirer of his or her fate and location; and that decision must be respected.
A formal enquiry collected and followed up by the ICRC or a National Society when a person formally requests that a missing relative's whereabouts are traced and/or that the relative is offered protection and assistance. Tracing requests have the purpose to inform the enquirer of the whereabouts of a family member, restore contact and to locate the most vulnerable individuals in order to assist and protect them.
Unit within a number of National Societies that are involved in RFL activities. Tracing services help to restore or maintain contact between members of families separated as a consequence of armed conflict or other situations of violence, natural disasters or any other situations requiring a humanitarian response.
Form used prior to a transfer of an individual to clarify the reasons for the transfer and to collect information on the person to be transferred and his destination.
Issued by the ICRC to meet the specific humanitarian needs of asylum seekers, refugees, vulnerable migrants, and displaced or stateless persons who, owing to a lack of proper identity papers and the impossibility of obtaining them, cannot return to their country of origin or of habitual residence or go to a country willing to receive them, either permanently or temporarily. The ICRC Travel Document is issued for a one-way trip only and after the acquisition of visas and the fulfilment of all travel requirements.
Children who have been separated from both parents and from other relatives and who are not being cared for by the adult who, by law or custom, is responsible for doing so.
See 'missing person.'
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