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Red Cross rigors – New leader tackles world’s conflicts

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A former Swiss diplomat has taken the helm of the International Red Cross at a time when global humanitarian agencies face more challenges than ever, the New York Times reported on June 5.

The International Red Cross faces competition for dwindling funds, increasingly nasty wars, and growing resistance from combatants to the organization’s presence in war zones.

“You can see that the degree of cruelty in the civilian population is increasing. And it’s worrying that international humanitarian organizations have become conscious targets for attacks,” Kellenberger told the Times.

Still, Kellenberger rejects using armed escorts, fearing they will destroy the perception that the Red Cross is independent and neutral.

In his first five months on the job, Jakob Kellenberger, 56, has restored the organization’s presence in Chechnya following the single worst Red Cross atrocity in history: the killing of six of its workers there in 1996.

Kellenberger used his expert negotiation skills to secure an agreement with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin to allow Red Cross workers access to prisoners in all Chechnya detention centers, where human rights groups say many abuses take place.

Kellenberger, the father of two daughters, said he would like to see the International Red Cross put more emphasis on protecting and assisting women and girls during his tenure. “This is something close to my heart,” he said.

For the full text of the article, see the New York Times.

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