Chicago Journal of International Law


Notwithstanding its private-initiative origins, the International Committee of the Red Cross ("ICRC") has been the main driving force behind the development of international humanitarian law for 140 years. It was the ICRC that took the initiative which led to the adoption of the original Geneva Convention of 22 August 1864, an instrument that is the starting point of contemporary international humanitarian law and a landmark in the development of public international law; it was the ICRC that laid the groundwork for the subsequent developments of that law. How was it that five individuals managed to have the initial Geneva Convention adopted? What was the significance of that treaty? What was the ICRC's role in the drafting of subsequent conventions and what is its role today in relation to the development of international humanitarian law? And finally, what is the outlook for the future? These are the questions this article sets out to answer.