ICRC Central Tracing Agency

Geneva Switzerland
Thematic Area
Families / Forensics / Law & Policies / Mechanisms / Technology & Data / The Search Process
Central Tracing Agency (CTA)
Region of operation
Contact us

The Central Tracing Agency (CTA) is one of the oldest institutions of the International Committee of the Red Cross enshrined in the Geneva Conventions. It is at the heart of the ICRC's efforts around the globe to: prevent people from going missing; restore and maintain contact between individuals and their families; search for missing persons; protect the dignity of the dead; and ensure that the needs of families are provided for.

The Central Tracing Agency provides services all over the world – including as a neutral intermediary – directly to people affected by armed conflict and other violence, disasters, migration and other situations requiring a humanitarian response. It coordinates the work of ICRC delegations and 191 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Family Links Network.
The CTA also acts in an advisory capacity and develops actions to support, advise and build the capacities of states, practitioners and other organizations through the Red Cross/Red Crescent Family Links Hub (also known as the Global Hub).

The CTA’s broad range of direct services and advisory support includes:

  • clarifying the fate and whereabouts of those who go missing and ensuring contact between separated family members by collecting and forwarding information, including family news
  • addressing – together with associations, communities, authorities and other actors – the wide range of needs experienced by families of missing persons
  • seeking to ensure, through bilateral and confidential dialogue, that states and parties to armed conflicts fulfil their relevant obligations in terms of the protection to which people are entitled under international law
  • helping governments establish normative frameworks and mechanisms to prevent people from going missing and to ensure proper handling of the dead
  • using new technology and data capacities to consolidate, analyse and preserve information to enhance the process of searching for and locating people, and to provide answers to families searching for their loved ones.

The CTA, which marked its 150th anniversary in 2021, continues to explore and implement innovative ways to transform the global effort to prevent people from going missing and to respond to the needs of both missing persons and their families.
In collaboration with partners in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, it conducts various international activities to restore and maintain family links during armed conflict and other situations of violence, disasters, migratory contexts and other situations requiring a humanitarian response.
The CTA traditionally serves as a neutral intermediary, and as a coordinator and technical adviser to National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and states in situations requiring a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian response to missing-persons cases and the needs of the families concerned.