The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) coordinates the world's largest private relief system for conflict situations. Its staff operates throughout the world, and in recent years the ICRC has mounted large operations in the Balkans and Somalia. Yet despite its very important role its internal workings are mysterious and often secretive. This book examines the ICRC from its origins in the mid-nineteenth century up to the present day, and provides a comprehensive overview of a unique private organisation, whose governing body remains all-Swiss, but which is recognized in international law as if it were an inter-governmental organization. David Forsythe focuses on the policy making and field work of the ICRC, while not ignoring international humanitarian law. He explores how it exercises its independence, impartiality, and neutrality to try to protect prisoners in Iraq, displaced and starving civilians in Somalia, and families separated by conflict in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. David Forsythe received the Distinguished Scholar Award for 2007 from the Human Rights Section of the American Political Science Association.