Light a Candle for the Missing


30 August 2016: Today, in order to mark the International Day of the Disappeared, ICMP organized a global social media campaign to light virtual candles representing persons missing around the world.

“Every year, millions of people around the world go missing because of conflict, human rights abuses, people trafficking, migration, disasters or other causes,” said ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger. “Thousands have gone missing as a result of the Mediterranean migration crisis in the last two years, and that is one area where the international community must develop a coordinated approach. The number of persons who have disappeared because of atrocities and human rights violations in Iraq is another area where a focused, rule-of-law approach is required.”

ICMP is preparing to launch an initiative with the International Organization on Migration and other agencies to assess the number of migrants who are going missing and set in place measures to locate and identify missing migrants. It has been working in Iraq since 2003 and currently has a training and assistance program there.

Reflecting on the recent signing of a peace accord for Colombia, Ms Bomberger said that the agreement opens the way for Colombia to expand a systematic effort to account for the tens of thousands of persons who have gone missing during five decades of conflict. ICMP is already working with the Colombian authorities to do this.

“ICMP is the only international organization exclusively mandated to address the issue of missing persons,” Ms. Bomberger said. “The International Day of the Disappeared is an appropriate occasion on which to consider ways in which the global community can address this global challenge. We are actively encouraging governments and others to develop strategies to deal with the missing and at the beginning of 2017 we will convene a Global Forum on Missing Persons that we hope will begin the process of forging a global consensus on the issue.”

ICMP was created at the 1996 G-7 Summit to assist with the search and identification of persons missing following the conflicts of the 1990s in the Western Balkans. In 2014, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Sweden and Luxembourg signed a framework agreement establishing ICMP as a treaty-based intergovernmental organization. In accordance with the agreement, ICMP’s headquarters moved from Sarajevo to the City of The Hague in 2015.

ICMP is voluntarily funded. It depends on the financial support of governments, multilateral organizations, foundations, corporations, and private donors.