Ignazio Cassis, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), and Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), signed the new protocol on 27 November 2020 at an official ceremony in Bern. Mr Cassis welcomed the amendments and reaffirmed the close cooperation between Switzerland and the Geneva-based ICRC. The signing of this protocol, based on the Host State Act, was approved by the Federal Council at its meeting on 18 November 2020.
On 19 March 1993, the Federal Council and the ICRC signed a 'headquarters agreement' establishing the organisation's legal status in Switzerland. The ICRC has since undergone major changes, particularly regarding the digitalisation of its activities and the composition and management of its human resources. The ICRC faces new challenges in its activities worldwide. The amendments to the headquarters agreement aim to increase the organisation's independence and its ability to carry out its crucial tasks on behalf of the victims of armed conflict.
As part of its international mandate, the ICRC processes highly sensitive data on the situation in regions of armed conflict and concerning the victims of such conflicts. In the interests of victims and their families, under the new provisions the ICRC's documents, archives and communications are better protected in an increasingly digital world.
Given the changes over time in the composition and management of the ICRC's personnel, it has also become necessary to adapt the social security situation for its staff.
The amendment of the headquarters agreement also provided an opportunity to update certain provisions and to adjust the terminology used, without changing the scope of the privileges and immunities granted to the ICRC. This is the case, for example, with the provision relating to value added tax (VAT), as the 1993 agreement still referred to 'purchase tax'.
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