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Interview with Mr Reto Stocker, Head of Delegation International Committee of the Red Cross in Pakistan

Interview with Mr Reto Stocker, Head of Delegation International Committee of the Red Cross in Pakistan

Mr Reto Stocker is Swiss national and holds PhD degree in “Global Climate Change” from the University of Basel. He has been working for ICRC over the last 20 years in the positions mentioned below:


30.09.2013 – to date – Head of Delegation in Islamabad, Pakistan

11.12.2005 – 11.10.2012 – Head of Delegation in Kabul, Afghanistan

09.10.2005 – 10.12.2005 – Deputy Head of Delegation in Islamabad, Pakistan

14.09.2003 – 04.09.2005 – Head of Delegation in Monrovia, Liberia

17.03.2002 – 13.09.2003 – Deputy Head of Mission in Bukavu, Congo

01.08.2001 – 16.03.2002 – Deputy Head of Delegation in Skopje, Macedonia

26.01.2000 – 31.07.2001 – Head of Sub Delegation in Mazar-I-Sharif, Afghanistan

25.08.1998 – 25.01.2000 – Delegate in Lokichokio, Kenya

09.06.1998 – 24.08.1998 – Head of Sub Delegation in Bunia, Congo

27.07.1997 – 08.06.1998 – Relief Delegate in Sukhumi, Abkhazia

10.03.1997 – 26.07.1997 – Delegate in Zugdidi, Georgia

Pakistan & Gulf Economist (PAGE) had an exclusive conversation with Mr Reto Stocker. The excerpts of the conversation are as follows:

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been active in Pakistan since 1947, when it helped the government establish refugee camps for the millions of people displaced by the Partition. During the Indo-Pakistan wars of 1948, 1965 and 1971, the ICRC delegates visited prisoners of war and facilitated the repatriation of detainees and internees at the end of the hostilities in accordance with the organization’s mandate. In the 1980s, the ICRC remained in Pakistan, providing relief and medical assistance to the victims of the Afghan War.

The ICRC, established in 1863, is the world’s largest and oldest humanitarian organization. The three-time Nobel Prize Laureate, the ICRC works to help people affected by armed conflicts and violence. The ICRC has been working in more than 80 countries.

Currently, the ICRC has been working in the following fields in Pakistan:

PHYSICAL REHABILITATION: From the first project in 1984, the ICRC Physical Rehabilitation Programme has endeavoured to improve prosthetic and orthotic services for the most vulnerable people in Pakistan. Prosthetics concerns provision of an artificial limb (prosthesis) for those that have lost their limb or part of their limb; orthotics concerns the provision of a brace (orthosis) to provide support, correction of a deformity or offer pain relief to a part of the body. Since the earthquake in 2005 the ICRC has had a continuous physical rehabilitation programme in Pakistan. Currently for greater sustainability of services ICRC works with partners to build, equip and run physical rehabilitation centres. In 2016 seven such partners provided services to over 27,000 people through 18 centres around the country. There are plans to open a further nine centres in partnership with the Government of Punjab and five with the FATA authorities. To improve the quality of services, there is continuous monitoring and evaluation of the centres and regular training of its staff through courses inside and outside of the country. For more long term impact on quality ICRC is sponsoring nine B.Sc. students and working with two universities to improve their programmes. Furthermore ICRC is facilitating all the four universities in Pakistan offering P&O programmes in Pakistan to come together and work on establishing a National Curriculum for P&O.

To encourage greater social reintegration, ICRC is working with other partners to provide better access for people with disabilities to schooling, sports and inclusive social activities. In an effort to find a sustainable solution to the huge number of those requiring services, ICRC has facilitated an initiative of its partners in establishing an organisation by the name of Rehab Initiative that will support the supply of materials, advocacy, capacity building and awareness on a national level.

HEALTH PROGRAM: The Health Unit of the ICRC in Pakistan works with partners. The details are as follows:

1: Pakistan Red Crescent (PRC)
– First Aid and pre-hospital care
– Primary Health Care Centers (curative and preventive services)
– TDP Camp Baka Khel, FR Bannu
– Torkham

2: Government Hospitals – Structural and Functional Support
– Lady Reading Hospital – Accident and Emergency Department
– Agency Headquarters Hospital, Jamrud – Accident and Emergency Department
– Donations of medical and surgical equipment

3: Capacity Building / trainings
– Emergency Room Trauma Course
– War Surgery Seminar renamed as Clinical Management of Weapon Wounded Patients

4: Isra University, Islamabad and Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), Karachi
– University Module on Clinical Management of Weapon Wounded Patients having 40 contact hours. Three sessions have been conducted with 90 post-graduate trainees in Surgery and allied fields benefited.

5: Disaster Response
– Donation of weapon wounded kits on needs basis – one kit for 100 injured individuals


1: Armed Forces of Pakistan: ICRC has been working with the Armed Forces of Pakistan since 1998 for promotion of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). We have been offering a wide range of dissemination activities to the three services (Army, Navy and Air Force) encompassing one-day seminars to certificate courses on IHL to various training establishments of the three services including war colleges. We have been jointly organizing panel discussions and round table discussions with the Armed Forces of Pakistan on the contemporary issues related to IHL.

2: National Implementation: In 2015, the ICRC initiated an entirely different focus on the promotion and integration of IHL by entering into an effective partnership with the Research Society of International Law (RSIL). There is a need for the various institutions of the state including the judiciary, executive and the armed forces to clearly understand the distinction between a Law of Peace (International Human Rights Law) and the Conduct of Hostilities (IHL) Paradigm. This clarity is essential in fighting the multi-faceted challenges facing Pakistan today.

The RSIL acted as the local partner in educating key policy makers towards understanding both paradigms. In 2016, a newly established centre of excellence called the Conflict Law Centre at the RSIL reinforced our efforts by developing in consultation useful solutions or working tools called Context Specific Manuals:

– Understanding IHL, A Primer on IHL and Pakistan’s Domestic Law
– Preventive Detention, A Guide to Pakistan’s Operations
– A Review of the Pakistan Police Handbook & International Policing Standards
– International Law Bench book for the Judiciary
– Aerial Targeting by the Pakistan Air Force during Domestic Military Operations
– A Comprehensive Way Forward on IHL Education for the Pakistan Military

The purpose of the Conflict Law Centre remains;

– To guide various stakeholders on how to harmonize the local laws so as to reduce the current contradictions and bring them to par with Pakistan’s international legal obligations.
– To advise various stakeholders on the conduct of military and humanitarian operations as any other query relating to the proper implementation of humanitarian law in the state.
– To play an important role in promoting activities to spread knowledge of IHL. In this regard, the CLC in close collaboration with the ICRC conduct studies, propose activities, and assist in making IHL more widely known.

1: Academic circles and civil society: The ICRC has been closely working with leading public and private sector universities of Pakistan for the promotion and integration of International Humanitarian Law in to their curriculum. We work mainly with the faculties of law and humanities. The engagement with academic institutions is aimed at ensuring that the future generation of decision makers would know the fundamentals of IHL, and leading academics can influence the policy debate on IHL related issues and humanitarian problems in the country. Similarly, the ICRC also promotes IHL among members of the civil society including media, lawyers, NGOs and Islamic scholars. It is also running an advanced programme on promoting dialogue on Islam and IHL in Pakistan.

HEALTHCARE IN DANGER PROJECT: Health Care in Danger (HCiD) is a program implemented in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since the year 2014, with the aim to mitigate violence pertinent to the entire health care spectrum; professionals, facilities, vehicles, and patients. The program has various facets carried out against the backdrop of collaborations with various prestigious institutions, including APPNA Institute of Public Health, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, The Indus Hospital, Edhi Foundation, SZABIST Karachi, Khyber Medical University, IAK (I Am Karachi) and AMAN Foundation. This includes, generating a discourse on policy and law, exploiting tools of social marketing and TV commercials for promotion of respect for health care, assessment of health facilities and training of health care staff.

In 2017, the ICRC and its partners will launch another high visibility media campaign on the right of way and respect for ambulances, will develop and deploy training manuals on safety of ambulance drivers, launch an analysis of KP laws with relation to protection of health care and carry out an in-depth academic assessment of patterns of violence against health care in Peshawar. Meanwhile, the work on promotion of the trainings for health care providers and students of medical colleges on management of violence in healthcare settings continues.

MANAGEMENT OF THE DEAD: The Management of the Dead program in Pakistan has gained momentum over the last few years. Since 2014, the ICRC has hosted 5 national courses on the Management of the Dead in Emergency situations that have brought together authorities, law enforcement agencies and emergency response agencies. The 5 day course promotes best practices in handling the dead to ensure dignified treatment of the dead, restoration of identities of unknown victims and provide answers to family members who seek their lost relatives as a result of mass casualty events.

The course emphasizes the contribution of Pakistani stakeholders who play a role in managing the dead through requested presentations, shared experiences and discussions on how to improve cooperation and communication in future emergency events. The PDMA/FDMA is consistently invited to participate, as is the NDMA at the national level. Given the expertise of Pakistan in responding to such events, the ICRC depends heavily on local expertise in the International courses held in Islamabad. The ICRC has also provided assistance to the NDMA on the development of national guidelines related to the Management of the Dead. In October 2016, the NDMA nominated six PDMA/FMDA representatives to attend the 1st South Asian Conference on Policy Development, held in Sri Lanka, to further develop an understanding and obtain guidance on the importance of emergency response planning. A follow-up conference will take place in Nepal later this year in which it is anticipated that NDMA will, once again participate through the nomination of NDMA/PDMA/FDMA participation. Given the importance of national and provincial policy, the ICRC is also working to support the NDMA in their effort to develop management of the dead policy.

RESTORING FAMILY LINKS: Providing Restoring Family Links (RFL) services and strengthening the capacity of the Pakistan Red Crescent (PRC) and other partners in times of disasters are one of the main work of the ICRC in Pakistan. Aside from its traditional RFL services, i.e. Red Cross Message transmittal, cross-border tracing, child and family reunification, visits/calls to detainees abroad and assistance to family members, it is currently providing material and technical support to PRC to operate the LOST project, a network of RFL staff placed in public hospitals nationwide ready to provide/facilitate psychological first aid, RFL services and referrals to appropriate services. While aiming to prevent loss of family contact in migration through dissemination sessions in FATA, the PRC and the ICRC also collects physical description data from inquiring family members to initiate probable identification of dead migrants in major migratory routes from Pakistan to Europe.

COMMUNITY BASED RISK EDUCATION (CBRE): ICRC’s CBRE programme aims at reducing the human casualties due to explosive remnants in Pakistan with the help of Pakistan Red Crescent and other important actors by partnering through capacity building in Mine Action. In this regard, ICRC together with PRC established Community Based Risk Education and Victim Assistance Programme through which interested community members and teachers are trained in community liaison, to ensure safer villages in remote areas of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, KP and FATA with potential threats of landmines, unexploded ordnance and IEDs. This program is well integrated with Disaster Management and First Aid program of Pakistan Red Crescent and plays important role in reducing human casualties. To establish a national capacity, ICRC is supporting PRC in extending its network with all provincial PDMA’s, Civil Defence, Social Welfare departments and other relevant stakeholders. ICRC has also signed a MoU with Police School of Explosive Handling, Nowshehra, for capacity building in First Aid Course in Blast Injury, risk education and explosive ordnance disposal.

SUPPORT TO PAKISTAN RED CRESCENT: The Pakistan Red Crescent (PRC) is ICRC’s primary partner in Pakistan. We work in operational partnership with PRC to meet needs under the Restoring Family Links, Health and Weapon Contamination headings. Additionally we work to build and maintain PRC capacity in the areas of Communication, First Aid and Disaster Management. Also we directly support their branch presence in FATA and KP and their national policy and systems development. The largest collaboration is in the First Aid domain, where ICRC provides resources and expertise for the entire PRC national programme, which is active in 90 districts, providing first aid training courses to tens of thousands of people.

Talking further, Mr Reto Stocker said as under:

The ICRC continues to stand ready to intervene whenever there are emergencies where we have expertise or in partnership with other organisations to jointly have expertise to alleviate suffering and this remains the core commitment of the ICRC as based in its mandate. Besides this, the ICRC organizes training workshops/courses i.e. “Foundation Course on International Humanitarian Law” (IHL) and also “Management of the Dead” to deal with the mass casualties, blasts i.e. the Bahawalpur incident in which a tanker overturned and exploded. We are imparting training based on international practices so that the participants may use in their respective domains. Pakistan has lots of expertise and I think the participants from foreign countries (international participants) here in Pakistan also benefit from the Pakistani institutions by attending such events. I think such events in which international participants come, it also projects a better image of Pakistan. Pakistan is a country full of talent with strong commitment and solidarity within the society.

We launched the raastaadain campaign regarding ambulances focused on Karachi last year to bring about awareness to give way to the ambulances so that they may not find it difficult on roads to reach the destination. This year, we have extended the same campaign to the major cities of Pakistan. There are issues of congestion, traffic rules not being respected, the clarity how one can give way to an ambulance with a misperception whether there is actually a patient in the ambulance or the sanctity of ambulance is being abused etc. These issues can be tackled with information sharing and confidence building so that the life-saving job which is being done by the ambulance drivers can actually be done in the best possible way. We are delighted to have a dozens of organisations as partners with the ICRC for the campaign this year; some of them are: Rescue 1122 having excellent service across Punjab and extending to other provinces; The Traffic Police Departments of all those cities where the campaigns are being launched, PEMRA having realized the importance of the message and purpose of this campaign has helped us in terms of free air time for this public service message, philanthropists are chipping in their contribution etc. We have managed to mobilize the related departments and people. The ICRC is always there in Pakistan with our limited resources, limited budget and limited staff to be at the right time and at the right place wherever the calamity happens. The ICRC is there to try to offer training and knowledge-based practice, means of coordination etc. in Pakistan. The ICRC has trained more than 600 doctors for war-surgery techniques over the period of 03 years all over Pakistan with strong focus on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as Federally Administered Tribal Areas by the doctors coming from Norway, Spain, Switzerland etc. ICRC has also trained people with security sector background posted in such areas.

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