Since the International Rescue Committee (IRC) was first founded at the request of Albert Einstein in 1933, our global team of more than 17,000 staff have helped people upended by conflict and crisis to survive, recover, and regain control of their lives. Today we work in more than 40 countries and over 20 U.S. and European cities, from conflict-affected countries like Yemen to resettlement communities like Boise, Idaho.
We focus our support in five areas: ensuring safety from harm, improving health, increasing access to education, improving economic wellbeing, and ensuring people have the power to influence decisions that affect their lives. In all our programming, we address the unique needs of women and girls (who represent the majority of those displaced)—and the barriers to progress everywhere we work.
Changing needs in a changing world
In the almost 90 years since our founding, the world has changed and so have the needs of the people we serve. Today a staggering 82.4 million people are displaced as result of conflict, persecution and crisis, including 26.4 million refugees, a record 48 million internally displaced persons, and 4.1 million asylum seekers. People are displaced for longer periods than ever (most for over a decade) as conflicts (such as that in Afghanistan) average 20 years in length. The climate crisis, projected to displace as many as 150 million people by 2050, further exacerbates these trends, as does COVID-19.
A strategic vision for 100 years of action
The goal of Strategy100 is to make our programs a model for the global humanitarian response. We aim to deliver high-quality, cost-effective programs—on our own and with local partners. We will combine research on programs that work best with insights driven by those we serve, to reshape the way the world helps those in need. With this we want to make empowerment and lasting change the norm.
Strategy100 will tackle five challenges
The number of people in need grows each year, but the global response has failed to keep pace.
Expand our scale
In order to reach more people in need, not just through our direct programming, but also by leveraging our resources and technical expertise to empower and strengthen local support systems, we will:
- Identify which interventions have the most impact at the lowest cost
- Target specific chronic-but-resolvable conditions like childhood malnutrition
- Improve the speed and access of our emergency response through regional teams integrated with community groups
- Engage local partners, including community networks and local civil society, to support local service delivery
- Invest in our technical capacities specifically designed to better support, and sustain, local service delivery
Aid programs put “band-aids” on problems, and too often take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to programming.
Empower people living in crisis
In order to increase our impact and enable long-term change in people’s lives, we will:
- Solicit input from the people we serve and local partners to ensure IRC programs are human-centered and contextually appropriate
- Design programs to ensure they are easily adapted to changing circumstances and need
- Emphasize the importance of using best-available research, evidence and data in our research and innovation
Better aid alone cannot improve lives unless it is accompanied by policy change.
Use our influence
- In order to amplify the voices of the people we serve, we will:
- Defend the rights of displaced communities and demand that all nations honor their humanitarian commitments to asylum seekers and refugees
- Accelerate innovation in humanitarian and development practice by establishing four centers for innovation around the world and highlighting innovative local solutions
- Drive global and regional campaigns for change on select policy issues of key importance to the people we serve
Current recruitment, training and support practices in the humanitarian sector lead to high turnover of front-line staff and give preference to expertise from abroad instead of elevating expertise and solutions from people in the countries where we work. This leads to inequalities of power not just in our sector, but in our organization.
Invest in our people
In order to attract and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce that represents the communities we serve, we will:
- Examine how we can address rather than reflect the pervasive and, in some cases, deepening inequalities that exist around the world, especially those of race and gender
- Prioritize building diverse, inclusive and locally recruited leadership
- Refine staff skills through professional development and management training
- Ensure a positive, equitable and inclusive work environment that supports all our employees regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or national origin
The aid sector is driven by small, short-term grants that make long-term impacts harder to achieve.
Stabilize our funding
In order to better respond to the needs of the people we serve and make stronger investments in their futures, we will:
- Advocate for and pursue larger, longer-term funding opportunities that enable consistent, high-quality programming
- Partner with private-sector organizations and individuals around the world committed to humanitarian action and development
- Provide additional, more flexible funding for strategic initiatives directly to program teams
The IRC was founded in 1933 to help people survive in the face of racist violence and fascist oppression and we are committed to racial and social justice. These values are core to the IRC mission of helping people whose lives and livelihoods are upended by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.
Inequalities of power exist not just in international humanitarian organizations but in our own organization and reflect some profound historic injustices. We can do better—in some aspects, much better—in ensuring through our systems and processes for hiring and promotion that our organization at all levels reflects the diversity of the places we work and the people we serve.
We are committed to anti-racism and fighting discrimination, understanding the systemic underpinnings, and recognizing that different parts of the world experience these issues in different ways. Tackling discrimination within the humanitarian sector is not optional.
Over the last year we have prioritized investing in our work in diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) and produced a new DEI Strategy. We have set goals to increase leadership diversity and committed to the creation of a new and permanent Gender, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (GEDI) Unit and Action Plan. This work reiterates and expands on the commitments to diversity, equality and inclusion outlined in our new strategy (Strategy 100).
Our DEI vision at the IRC is as follows:
“At the IRC, our diverse clients, partners and staff have the power, voice and agency to shape programs and operations. Within the IRC, we actively work to end all forms of systemic discrimination and foster an inclusive working environment where everyone feels respected, heard, valued and supported. Our programs seek to reduce disparities in outcomes which are driven by systemic inequality.”
Specific Diversity, Equality and Inclusion action that the IRC has undertaken includes:
- Committed to leadership diversity goals related to gender identity, sexuality, race/ethnicity and nationality, including that 50% of our global and regional senior leaders identify as races/ethnicities under-represented in global power structures (Black, Indigenous or Native Peoples, Hispanic/Latinx, Middle Eastern or North African or Asian/Pacific Islander and other minority ethnic groups); as well as for 50% of senior leaders to be women.
- Developed staff-led Diversity, Equality and Inclusion priorities to be incorporated alongside our Gender Equality approach in the IRC’s GEDI action plan.
- Created an internal staff DEI Council with over 40 members representing over 20 diverse staff groups and networks from around the world.
- Improved recruitment practices to attract more diverse talent and hired a full-time diversity recruiter.
- Launched an audit of HR practices and a global staff survey to inform further investments in improving internal policies and practices to deliver on our DEI goals.
We encourage all of the 20,000 IRC staff and volunteers around the world to raise concerns or complaints through our regular reporting channels, which are published both internally and externally.