International Crisis Group

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International Crisis Group
Type Non-profit
Founded 1995
Key people Louise Arbour, President/CEO
Thomas R. Pickering, Chairman
Method(s) international conflict prevention

The International Crisis Group (ICG) is a conflict-prevention non-profit, non-governmental organization with many prominent Western politicians and diplomats involved in its governance, particularly those from the United States and other NATO countries. Like some other NGOs it carries out research on conflict issues, but it distinguishes itself by enthusiastic advocacy of its research recommendations,[1] and a willingness to recommend humanitarian intervention, for example humanitarian intervention in Kosovo.[citation needed] It is active in around fifty countries and has an annual budget of around $19m, around half of which comes from Western governments and the rest from foundations and private donors.


In many respects the new Group was unique for what it was not: it was not designed to deliver humanitarian assistance; it was not a mediating body; it was not a human rights organisation, and it was not adverse to recommending international military intervention to end conflicts.

ICG, Fifteen Years on the Front Lines, 1995-2010[2]

The founding of the ICG was based on a chance meeting in January 1993 between former US diplomat and then-President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Morton I. Abramowitz and future World Bank Vice-President Mark Malloch Brown on a flight to Sarajevo.[2] The international community's difficulty in responding to the Bosnian War provided the catalyst for "an independent organisation that would serve as the world’s eyes and ears on the ground in countries in conflict while pressing for immediate action."[2] George Soros was involved in discussions early on and provided seed money.[2] Disaster relief specialist Fred Cuny, who made significant contributions in disaster relief in Bosnia, was brought on board later that year, but his participation in ICG was cut short by his death in 1995.[2]

Plans for the ICG were announced by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in November 1994, while former Congressman Stephen J. Solarz toured foreign capitals to promote the new organisation and raise funds, gaining early support from Martti Ahtisaari (President of Finland), Gareth Evans (Foreign Minister of Australia) and Bernard Kouchner (founder of Médecins Sans Frontières and future French Foreign Minister).[2] A January 1995 meeting in London brought many international figures together, and approved a proposal for an annual budget of $8m and 75 full-time staff. It was formally registered in the US as a tax-exempt non-profit organisation in mid-1995.[2] From 1996 to 1999, ICG had an annual budget of around $2m and around 20 full-time staff; by 2008 its budget was $15m.[2]

Following the death of its first President, Nicholas Hinton in January 1997 and his replacement by Alain Destexhe, ICG moved its headquarters from London to Brussels.[2] Destexhe resigned in October 1999, and was replaced by Gareth Evans, with Martti Ahtisaari becoming Chairman (both from the beginning of 2000).[2] Louise Arbour became President in July 2009.[2]

Organization and purpose[edit]

The International Crisis Group says it gives advice to governments, and intergovernmental bodies like the United Nations, European Union and World Bank, on the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict. It combines field-based analysis, policy prescription, and advocacy, with key roles being played by senior management and board members. By its own accounts, the International Crisis Group plays a major role in six ways:

  • Ringing early warning alarm bells, in blogs and the monthly CrisisWatch bulletin, and in specific ‘crisis alerts’, e.g., in Ethiopia-Eritrea, Darfur, Somalia and Pakistan;
  • Contributing, on both process and substance, behind-the-scenes support and advice to critical peace negotiations, e.g., in Sudan, Burundi, Northern Uganda, Aceh, Nepal and Kenya;
  • Producing highly detailed analysis and advice on specific policy issues in conflict or potential conflict situations, helping policymakers in the UN Security Council, regional organisations, donor countries and others with major influence, and in the countries at risk themselves, do better in preventing, managing and resolving conflict, and in rebuilding after it;
  • Providing detailed information unobtainable elsewhere on developments regarding conflict, mass violence and terrorism of particular utility to policymakers, e.g., on the Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia and Islamic Courts Union in Somalia;
  • Offering new strategic thinking on some of the world’s most intractable conflicts and crises, e.g., on the Iran nuclear issue, the role of Islamism worldwide, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the way forward in Kosovo, Iraq and the Western Sahara; and
  • Strongly supporting a rules-based, rather than force-based, international order, in particular significantly influencing UN Resolutions and institutional structures in relation to the new international norm of the ‘responsibility to protect’.

The International Crisis Group has offices or representation in 30 locations, with teams of analysts dispatched to areas at risk of outbreak, escalation, or recurrence of conflict. Based on the information these teams gather, the organization creates analytical reports with recommendations targeted at world leaders and organizations. In addition to this work, Crisis Group publishes a monthly newsletter, CrisisWatch, which provides a brief overview of continuing or impending violence in the world. All of the Crisis Group's reporting is available on its website.


Crisis Group raises funds from mainly western governments, charitable foundations, companies and individual donors. In 2011/2012, 49% of its funding came from governments, 20% from philanthropic organisations, and 31% from individuals and private foundations. Philanthropist George Soros who is chairman of the Open Society Institute is on the Board of Trustees. And its Advisory Council includes corporations like Chevron and Shell. Crisis Group is sometimes accused of serving the interests of corporate or government funders.


The ICG's "In Pursuit of Peace Award" was established in 2005, and is associated with a prestigious gala event in New York City. Recipients include U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush; Nobel Peace Prize laureates Martti Ahtisaari and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and financier and philanthropist George Soros.[3]

The 2013 joint award to Brazil's ex-President Lula and Burma's President Thein Sein[3] caused controversy due to Burma's human rights record, with the award ceremony coinciding with the publication of a Human Rights Watch report alleging ethnic cleansing by Thein Sein's administration.[4][5][6]


Crisis Group's international headquarters are in Brussels, with advocacy offices in Washington DC (where it is based as a legal entity), New York, London and Moscow. The organisation currently operates field offices in Abuja, Bangkok, Beijing, Beirut, Bishkek, Bogotá, Bujumbura, Cairo, Dakar, Damascus, Dubai, Gaza, Guatemala City, Islamabad, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Kabul, Mexico City, Nairobi, Port-au-Prince, Pristina, Rabat, Sanaa, Seoul, Tbilisi and Tunis.

Countries and territories with ongoing Crisis Group activity[edit]

Crisis Group is also currently covering some 70 areas of actual or potential conflict (through analysts operating from regional or field bases, or consultants).

Officers and staff[edit]

Crisis Group is co-chaired by former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Thomas R. Pickering and Mark Malloch-Brown. The organisation's vice-chairs are Ayo Obe and Ghassan Salamé.

Its President and Chief Executive is Louise Arbour, formerly the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. She was preceded (from January 2000 to July 2009) by former Foreign Minister of Australia, Gareth Evans.

Board of Trustees[edit]

As of May 2013[7]


There have been some critiques on the independence of Crisis Group's board members[8] and of the ICG for serving Western interests.[9] Moisés Naím,a member of the board of directors of the International Crisis Group served as the Venezuelan Minister for Development for the social democratic government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. Recently the ICG released a report intimating that the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro might suffer "unpredictable, possibly violent consequences" if it did not audit the election results in which Maduro won.[10] The election results have been recognized by the world community, including 170 neutral international observers- except for the United States government, who along with allied governments, provides half of the funding for the ICG.[11][12] Gareth Evans, President and Chief Executive of the International Crisis Group for nine years and former foreign minister of Australia, officially recognized East Timor as a province of Indonesia, a decade after the dictatorship invaded and carried out a genocide of the East Timorese, killing 200,000 according to a report co-sponsored by the Australian Parliament.[13] Evans described the massacre of 200 East Timorese in 1991 by the Indonesian Army as an "aberration," despite widespread knowledge of the Indonesian military's genocide.[14]


  1. ^ "It is not a campaign organization in the familiar grass-roots, or now social-media sense, but it is certainly a high-level advocacy one, seeking constantly to communicate directly with government policymakers and those who influence them, and with a strong media profile." - The International Crisis Group: The Role of a Global NGO in Preventing and Resolving Deadly Conflict, Gareth Evans, 17 May 2012
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k ICG, Fifteen Years on the Front Lines, 1995-2010
  3. ^ a b ICG, 26 November 2012, In Pursuit of Peace Award Dinner: Peace, Prosperity and the Presidency
  4. ^ William Corliss, Asia Times Online, 22 April 2013, Conflicted peace prize for Thein Sein
  5. ^ Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, 22 April 2013, Myanmar's ruler to get peace prize, despite 'ethnic cleansing' charge
  6. ^ Human Rights Watch, April 22, 2013, Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State
  7. ^ ICG, Crisis Group's Board of Trustees
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External links[edit]