IRRC No. 907/908/909

A balancing act: The revised rules of access to the ICRC Archives reflect multiple stakes and challenges

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The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) revised the access rules to its archives in 2017 for reasons that are complex, fascinating and deeply contemporary to our times. As these rules define when and to what extent the ICRC Archives are made available to the public, their contents are important for the institution as well as for wider audiences. The ICRC must ensure that it can implement its humanitarian mandate to protect and assist victims of armed conflicts and other situations of violence and preserve confidentiality, while sharing its past with the world at large. This article offers a historical overview of the ICRC Archives and the development of their access regulations until their latest revision in 2017. It shows that both today and in the past, the rules of access to the archives have resulted from choices made by the ICRC on how to balance its mandate and long-standing interests with contemporary opportunities and risks related to independent scrutiny.

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