Collective Staff Agreement Icrc

September 14th, 2021

“I don`t swim in a Swissness bath,” noted one insolent interviewee. While prior to our interview he had given little thought to the importance of Swiss values in the ICRC, in agreement with many other non-Swiss staff, he showed astonishing clarity on what constitutes the ICRC`s core principles and values. An unwavering faith in these principles, their importance to the vitality of the organization and field operations unites all interviewees. The fact that these principles are in line with what many non-Swiss interviewees perceive as key Swiss qualities was only an idea a posteriori for them. Yes, the ICRC may have strong Swiss roots; Yes, it may still be run by Switzerland and relies on the loyalty of the Swiss state – but the organization`s crush has become increasingly international. In other words, for international staff, the ICRC`s values have transcended notions of national values and created a more universal organizational culture that does not depend on strong roots and has led to a detachment from the national context. Although non-Swiss interviewees acknowledged the ICRC`s historical Swiss roots and the organization`s principles reflect national values, they showed less understanding of the nature of these Swiss values. As a result, none of them deplore what some of their Swiss colleagues perceive as a loss of Swiss specificity within the ICRC – accepting as part of the wave of internationalisation and even welcoming international staff into these changes. For them, the question of past roots is less urgent than visions for the future. The debate on Swissness is part of this story; On the other hand, the future should be marked by how the organization can transcend its Western image and move towards an even more global culture. In the context of the ICRC, what is remarkable is the way in which the majority of respondents did not differentiate between the values that influence the organization – and therefore their own work – and the principles that flow from it.

In the ICRC`s general discourse, i.e. a generally heard opinion, the notion of values is less used and considered to be both tense and problematic. Management`s attempts to initiate discussions on common values have failed, with staff believing that this is a less urgent subject than focusing on the ICRC`s mission and principles. As a result, our interviewees quickly assimilated values attributed to Switzerland to the ICRC`s fundamental principles proclaimed in 1965, which the organization shares with the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, namely humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality (ICRC 2009: 9-10), so as not to be confused with “universalism”. Interviewees interchanged them as “principles” or “values” and agreed that they belonged to the “DNA of the organization” or its “central identity.” After the rhizomatic beginning described above, we present our value dimensions in a network graph and not in a circular structure, as Schwartz proposes. This is due to the truly transcultural configuration of the organization we are examining, as well as the complexity of the clusters of values and the interaction of the collected values, represented by certain lines of connection between them, both on the intrinsic side and on the instrumental side. Connection lines on networks are plotted based on the interaction and multipolarity of values and value categories. As an example, we will show the rhizomatic structure of certain values mentioned by the ICRC staff interviewed. “The Swiss never take sides. […] We are only on the side of the Swiss,” says a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Ann Patchett`s novel Bel Canto (2002: 88). . .

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